The Drift

The Drift

Self-Inflicted Wounds.

In this first post of 2022, I’d like to offer a practical gift to every seller in our business (and beyond) as you start this next annual chapter of your sales career. It comes in the form of an observation and some advice.

You are shooting yourself in the foot and it’s clouding your vision, mucking up your forecasts and making your sales cycle longer and more unstable. And it doesn’t have to be that way.

In my recent sales workshops, I’ve outlined the three self-inflicted wounds that can be fatal to your win-rate, but that are also easily corrected.

The Sales Call with No Purpose. Also known as the first call or the introduction. This is an assumption that’s as common as it is deadly. It’s just a first call or I’m just meeting a new team member… Reps tell themselves that we’ll just use this time to get to know each other… introduce them to the site… find out about their plans and goals. By wasting this at-bat, you’ve just added 3-4 months to your sales cycle, wasted your client’s time and probably came away with the same vanilla-mush information that they would have sent with an RFP – to anyone. Instead: Bring one slide filled with information about the client, another with the problem you feel you can solve for them, and 3 or 4 of your own slides about how you would solve it. Even if you’re wrong, the client will make you right.

Defaulting to Another Step instead of Closing. What does a salesperson say when they don’t ask directly for the client’s business? Usually, they just ask for another meeting, or the opportunity to write things up and send a proposal. The customer may have been ready to take a much more specific step – to recommend the plan, to assign budget, to prioritize the idea with their team – but the rep will never know because the question was never asked. Add at least six weeks to the process. Instead: Decide in advance on the most specific step this customer can take to advance the business and practice asking them for it. A good closing question features the phrase Will you… and includes a verb (action to be taken) a number (liberal estimate of cost) and a date (for activation, launch, commitment). Let them tell you that something else is needed. Don't create your own delays.

Chasing Unqualified Objections. Sometimes customers ask for discounts or special service, other times they just throw out questions about possibility. Could we structure the deal differently? Can you integrate with this kind of measurement? Can you put a pixel on it? This throws many sellers into a tailspin of activity. They chase down the answers. They burn extra weeks (and burn out their own team members) only to meet yet another question or objection… or radio silence. Instead: Learn how to use a conditional close. If we’re able to do that, would you recommend us? Is this the only issue standing in our way? A good rule of thumb is don’t answer a question until you know it’s the only question. It’s a simple way to qualify not only the opportunity but also the decision maker you’re dealing with.

Wishing you all a marvelous year filled with creativity, excellence and success.

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This afternoon in San Francisco a man named John Durham died after many years of serious health problems. Those are the facts, but not the story. To those of us who knew and loved him so much, he was THE DURHAM: a life force, a gentle soul, a fantastic dresser and a terrible speller. In short, he was THE DURHAM. To his friends, no explanation is necessary. To those who were never touched by him, no explanation is possible.

Attending, 2021

I wrote this post about the value of attention a few years ago, pre-pandemic and pre-Zoom. Lightly-edited, it seems even more relevant now. Making others feel fully-attended earns us their attention in return. Read on.

More Stuff to Write Down.

Last week I used this space to share several of the leading themes from Write this Down: Memes and Metaphors for a Better Life in Sales, a book that I've begun working on. This week, a few more, including some challenging advice for both managers, individual contributors and their fellow humans from many walks of life.

The Drift is Back.

You haven't heard from The Drift since late spring... a several-week hiatus that allowed for the outlining of "Write this Down: Memes and Metaphors for a Better Life in Sales." Since fleshing out the book will take a while longer, I've decided to share many of the aforementioned Memes and Metaphors across the next few posts of The Drift. Read on, comment, share, push back and apply them to your own life in sales.

A Time of Truth.

Five years ago, P&G CMO Marc Pritchard called bullshit on the digital supply chain and challenged us to get our house in order. I’ll make it even simpler. Tell the truth. Sell real stuff. Clean up after yourself. Leave the place a little better than how you found it. Create confidence. Now Google and Apple have done us all a favor. They not only locked the door to the digital funhouse; they pretty much burned the place down. What we build now is up to us. I hope we build back better.

What We Say When We're Not Selling.

While erstwhile sellers may never actually come out and say "Please don't buy anything from me today," these anti-selling clichés may be the next best -- or worst -- thing.

The VIP Manager.

For teams conditioned to their managers spitting out answers and directives, this approach is going to feel strange at first. The VIP manager is forcing strategic thinking and deeper context into decision making that’s too often situational, transactional and unscalable. VIP management will slow down the moments while simultaneously speeding up the growth of your team.

Our Year on Earth.

For exactly a year now, each day, without leaving home, we look into the faces of dozens of industry execs: we share meaningful phone calls with managers working to better lead and care for their teams. On a dime, and on a shoestring, we’ve pivoted into the fourth complete reinvention of our company. And we’ve spent this year on earth making a difference for good people. Who's luckier than we are?

Hiring in the Shadows.

The truth is, we’re still mostly interviewing the way we did in 2015 – and 2005 and 1995 – and it has nothing to do with the pandemic or Zoom. Our perspective on talent is compromised not because we are now hiring within the frame of a Zoom screen. It’s because we’ve always used a flawed lens to frame candidates.

Low Beams.

The person you’re speaking to right now… the work in front of you… today… the next hour. These are the only reality we can truly impact. Look past them and you’ll lose the only resource that can never be replaced: The moment.

The January Conversation.

Without a disruptive strategy to get the January conversation, you’re just another player hanging around the rim waiting for a rebound. You deserve better. So grab the ball and take your shots.


A little more light, more vaccine being delivered, people sharing news of their vaccinations on social media. And even as the amount of light and hope spirals upward, we will simultaneously suffer through cold and storms and sadness. These things live together in winter, but in spring the light wins out. And Spring will come. Just stay focused on the light.