Trust is a crucial aspect of business and relationships. Developing trust over the duration of a customer relationship takes attention and focus. Creating a good first impression can go a long way in establishing trust in business relationships. The initial encounter sets the tone for future interactions and can significantly impact how others perceive you or your company. 

I’ve shared how the concept of trust was uniquely presented to me as I went through airport security on an international trip. After responding to the standard questions, the security agent asked a final question, “Should I trust you?” I answered in the affirmative, of course, but the unconventional question got me thinking!  

Reflecting on the experience – which was used to gauge my response under pressure and assess my overall demeanor – I gained real insight into how trust is perceived and established. In business and personal relationships, trust develops through a combination of communication, consistency and demonstrated reliability. Verbal and non-verbal cues also play a significant role in establishing trust.  

When meeting with a prospect for the first time, how do you establish trust? This is not the same type of trust you have with a family member or friend. It’s the trust that allows someone to have a candid conversation about their business issues. 

Plenty is written about what not to do, such as being pushy, talking too much or just falling into stereotypical selling behavior. But in that critical window of time (which can be as short as a minute) how do you make a connection that allows the prospect to feel comfortable sharing information with you? How do you show that you genuinely care about understanding their business situation? 

Here are three actionable steps to help establish trust during your initial interactions.  

  1. Be prepared with questions about the prospect’s organization and needs, not statements or brochures about your product, service or organization. 
  1. Allow the prospect to set the pace of the meeting. Help the prospect discover their needs by listening to what they say. A few well-constructed questions will help the prospect come to their own conclusion. And only offer suggestions for items to review after they have expressed their priorities. 
  1. Be sincere. Being sincere means doing what you say you are going to do. The first way to establish sincerity is a prompt, written follow-up after that initial meeting that captures the important components for the prospect and their organization. 

You can shape the trajectory of a long-term customer relationship by establishing trust early on. While some think trust takes years to cultivate and develop, the agent at the airport thought it could take one second, a reaction to a question. One thing is certain; establishing trust is a central component of all healthy relationships. Successfully lay the foundation and watch a lasting and fruitful customer relationship unfold.   


Have you ever spent several thousand dollars (and then some) on training only to see no change or short-term boosts at best? If your sales training is striking out, it’s probably due to a lack of prep and follow-up. There are ways to achieve long-term positive changes through training but you’ve got to know what you’re signing up for and consider some clear-cut strategies.

For starters, different types of training accomplish different goals. Over the years we’ve been hired by clients for one-hour kick-off motivational keynotes, three-day intensive sales process training and everything in between. We’ve learned a few things along the way including – sales training conducted as an “event” simply doesn’t work.

If your goal is to transform your organization so that it’s achieving goals like increasing sales or increasing profit margin, the training itself is only 10% of the overall process. To make your training investment stick, consider the following before you spend valuable dollars.

You Need an Implementation Plan. Start your transformation with the end in mind. What metrics will be used to measure the success of the salespeople, manager and related team member(s)? Will leadership hold them accountable for achieving these goals? For example, to achieve 10% growth in revenue you’ve calculated that each salesperson needs to meet with one additional qualified prospect per day. The skill being developed is new business development. How will you hold each person accountable for that number? The measure of success could be an email the salesperson sends to the customer that summarizes their meeting. This is an auditable measure that a manager and a manager’s manager can use. The email not only provides quantitative measurement, but the leaders, and even the CEO, can review the email and see the quality of customer interactions. How well was the new skill captured in the follow-up e-mail? Does this contact meet the defined metric of adding one new qualified prospect per day?

Have a Strategy to Reinforce and Coach Learned Skills.

Sales skills that are enhanced or gained in a training session are 80% forgotten after the first 30 days. Why? When not practiced or measured with a 3rd party, there’s often little to no change in behavior. The formula for reinforcement is: a) apply the learned skill b) share results with the coach and then c) reinforce the behavior. For coaching, first get attendees to apply new skills in the field. This could be verbal or written sales skills – but only introduce one skill at a time. Then it’s time to coach. Ask specific questions about the desired outcome. For the example above, did the salesperson meet (or converse) with one new, qualified prospect a day? Frame questions that help them understand what went well and where correction needs to happen. Next, ask them how they can improve their results. Effective coaches help people find their own answers. Finally, ask what would happen if the next time they tried … and then insert a specific recommendation. Reviewing a video of someone good at executing a skill is a way to fine-tune a new sales method. Rehearsing a future conversation with a recording is also a good practice.

When changes are reinforced, salespeople will remember how inspired and motivated they were at training. And with effective measuring, they’ll know these skills and behaviors will be recognized.

Immediately following Sales Process Workshops in Spain and France, John is interviewed by Cristina Lourenco from Acolad on how customized, focused and actionable sales training turns into revenue. Have a listen to what happens before, during and especially AFTER the training that gets results.

John and the FSS team will be in Europe for 3 weeks in April working with a global commercial translation organization. If you are in Paris or Sevilla, and would like to meet for a coffee or Spring walkabout, please reach out to John at Ole and Merci!








There’s no doubt that sales training is an investment; but, when done right, it’s one of the smartest investments your company can make. Small improvements in selling techniques can make a huge impact on revenue. What would it mean to your sales results if your average reps were producing as well as your top performers?

We have 17 years of experience training sales teams, which means equipping them with the skills and tools they need to achieve sales goals. We are different from other training organizations because we don’t teach a one-size-fits-all course. Our curriculum is customized to your unique sales process and selling environment. Your reps will leave our course having learned and practiced the techniques they need to successfully engage with prospective customers to drive revenue.

We provide both in-person live sales training along with virtual sessions. While we love to engage in person with your teams, if you do opt for an online training experience, you can rely on our fine-tuned virtual event platform that allows you to maximize learning opportunities through group break out discussions, private and public chat features and a one-on-one coaching.

Whether you choose to hold your sales training in-person or virtually, take advantage of our Online Learning Portal which has helped hundreds of our customers’ salespeople reinforce what the sales skills they acquire in our workshops.

John shares his insights with of Selling Power Magazine. He has been voted by Selling Power as one of the Leading Sales Trainers.


We do sales training. At least that’s what I tell people at a cocktail party or BBQ because if I tried to say what we really do, which is help our customers refine and implement a repeatable process to drive revenue, I’d get a lot of blank stares.  

 But when I’m speaking with a commercial leader of a mid to large size organization, they get it. Because the work we do is fundamental to the tactical execution of their go-to-market strategy. And companies spend millions of dollars on getting their strategy right. 

 We help our customers improve the quality of the sales opportunities they develop and increase the overall revenue in their pipeline. All sales organizations are focused on this, and we enable it with a skills-based program that is custom built for our customers based on the markets they compete in and how organizations buy. Sales effectiveness is about understanding buying, not about refining your sales pitch.  

Our source of pride is twofold. First, we have helped the individuals in our customers’ organizations improve their success. This is important monetarily, but even more so when you hear the effect it has on their families—that makes my heart sing. And second are the many, many customers who have come back to buy from us again; some twice, and some even more. This repeat business is a testament to our process and reminds me we are doing something right. 

I can’t believe it was sixteen years ago when the company I was working had just been sold, and my wife Septembre asked me “what’s next?” I told her I wanted to do something that combined what I love and what I am good at. She just said, “then go do it!”  

 That was a leap of faith from a wonderful wife, one that included a 3-year-old son and 6-month-old daughter, to go back out as an entrepreneur, build a business and follow my passion. No base salary, no benefits—just belief, support and a loving, positive atmosphere. 

The first 13 months were hard work—digging for commercial sales opportunities in a sea of competition that had some large players, many middle tiers and a ton of small companies. It was a benefit that I underestimated the task and didn’t realize just how much competition was out there. Instead, I just went for it with a relentless energy level and a good network of contacts from my twenty years in sales. It was hard work, but the wins and success stories from our customers have far outweighed the hassles. Jim Brogan, a longtime friend and former NBA player summed it up well when he told me “the success is in the struggles.”  

 Today, I feel blessed to have the right people around me (personally and professionally), an offering that I know can help others succeed, and rewards that go well beyond compensation. Let’s just call it a dream. 

As humans, we tend to want to swoop in and fix things, often starting with the things that are most broken and most in need of repair. As sales managers, we pride ourselves on being fixers and judge ourselves on our ability to effectively coach our teams and give them the resources they need to be successful.  

But, just as not all salespeople are created equal (see Bottom Third Sales Coaching) nor are the opportunities they put in the pipeline. In both cases, though our tendency may be to start with the team members and opportunities that are most in need, this impulse is often detrimental to our overall success. Just as with the bottom third of our sales reps, the bottom third of our opportunities will rarely move the needle regardless of how much time or energy we put into them. Often these are opportunities that have not been well qualified and are not well suited to our product or service capabilities. Additionally, despite equal or greater time investment, they may not have the revenue potential that some of the other opportunities have. 

So, what’s the answer? As difficult as it can be, the answer is to put less time into your bottom third. Instead, focus your time on B and C opportunities. Why not your A opportunities? Because your top 10% of opportunities are so well qualified and such a good fit, that they’ll likely close with little to no involvement from you. So, spend your time on the B and C opportunities, helping your reps understand how your product or service will help their prospects increase revenue, decrease costs or mitigate risks. Spend time thoroughly qualifying these ones up front so they have a higher likelihood to close.  

Neglecting the bottom third of your opportunities is not shirking your sales managerial responsibilities; in fact, reallocating your time to focus on the 60% of your core B and C opportunities will be the best way to support your sales reps going forward by helping them move the needle. 

Most of you will be hosting or attending your Sales Kickoff meeting virtually in early 2021. How can you get the most out of the experience without the eyeball-to-eyeball interaction you’re used to at these events? Whether you are putting the event on, or going as an attendee, what you do before, during, and after the event is critical to call it a success.

Here are a few ideas to consider:

  1. Before: make the “audience” part of the show:  the late, great David Bowie said the thing he liked about concerts in the electronic or “rave” category is that that the attendees were a part of the concert itself. Adopt that idea and put ownership of portions of the meeting in the hands of attendees. If the sessions planned are for a Product Launch, new IT tool introduction, or market segment expansion, have the attendees deliver parts of the presentation with relevance to the topic. For instance, how will the product launch help a customer to grow, resolve an internal operational issue with the new IT tool, or close the communication between teams to grow new markets. Be specific!
  • During: drive the participation rates: have team members hold one another accountable for participation. Put them in pairs or small groups and ask them to alternate taking notes and providing feedback. Prep the individuals and teams for what comes next, which is how they will determine the follow-up step for each of the presentations attended.
  • After: don’t wait for follow up: most presentations at face-to-face or virtual conferences wrap up with the presenter saying “contact me with any questions.” Well, that rarely works after you’ve heard three or four speakers. The follow-up should start there and then, with the spokesperson from the smaller teams setting dates and times for specific items to discuss on the Product Launch, new IT initiative, or market development plans.

Putting this mechanism in place before the virtual meetings will take some additional time. The good news is your management team and event coordinators will save a ton of time on the back end not having to chase for follow-up or next steps when attendees disperse. Put the time in now, and the results will follow.

To say the last few years have been odd is a gross understatement. There are so many things happening domestically and globally that we haven’t seen before; we will spare you the exercise of naming them all. For us, the most relevant and pressing issues for our customers and prospects are the radical shift in buying that the Work from Home (WFH) environment has created and talk of economic headwinds.

So, what have you done about it? As a sales or commercial leader, you’re doing your best to keep your team focused. Sellers and other front-line employees in customer-facing roles (CFRs) (which include sales, marketing, technical specialists, product development, customer service, project managers, etc.) are working to get the attention of prospects and keep the momentum for deals that used to move through reasonably quickly.
The new buying behavior can be fragmented and frustrating for both buyers and sellers. And one of the conduits to it all is virtual selling which relies on your ability to navigate relevant technology platforms like Zoom, TEAMS, GoTo Meeting, Google Hangouts, etc. The word we have received from buyers and sellers is that it’s still a mixed bag of good and bad on how well the technology is being understood and used. The meetings that you’re conducting with your internal teams are often the same—some attendees are plugged in and ready, while others need to ramp up their participation and stop multitasking during calls.

Our Virtual Selling Effectiveness (VSE) workshop is designed to help improve the use of technology to connect in the scenarios described above, as well as others. There are several things that hosts and attendees can do before, during, and after the meetings to increase the overall effectiveness. How well you and your teams are able to manage this new (ab)normal is a large factor in your overall success.

The ability to embrace and utilize virtual communication is here to stay, regardless of when we are fully back in our offices huddling around water coolers again. Now’s your opportunity to take the time to make sure you and your team get this right.