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Vendors Deserve Some Appreciation, Too!

It’s that time again—the Holidays are here. Loved ones come together, and you give your thanks to customers and employees alike. But wait—are you forgetting someone?

This is also the perfect time to thank your vendors. Yes, your vendors, the ones you rely on to supply your business. You might ask, “Shouldn’t they be thanking me?” Well, sure. And they will. But when you thank them specifically for something they did that benefitted your business last year, you encourage the kind of support, customer service, and allowances that you want next year.

Your vendors know what’s happening in the market

They could save you valuable time and money. They can give you a heads-up of what the competition is doing. And they can keep you in the loop when it comes to the ever-changing market dynamics. Did your vendors give you useful information this year? If so, thank them now.

Your vendors understand how your brand will benefit the most by utilizing its products and services

When their warehouse is sitting on excess inventory, your vendors can give you a nice deal. They know when their higher-ups need money ASAP and can, therefore, offer you a discount. They may even let you use their warehouse for free if you agree to a large purchase they need to hit their number. Think about how much that can save you down the line. A few words of gratitude now can welcome opportunities for personalized attention in the future.

Whether it’s timely delivery, special packaging, or extended terms to help you grow, your vendors can make your life a whole lot easier. Did any of your vendors do any of these things this year for your company? Now is the perfect time to thank them!

Make Your Company The “Favorite Call” of Your Vendors

We’ve been in sales for years. We know how vendors are usually treated because we functioned as vendors to our buyers. On some days, we’d wait around for hours to see the buyer! They made us feel like we were lucky just to get in the door. The overall attitude was, “This guy is here to sell me something I don’t need.” A lot of these people couldn’t wait to get rid of us. That is, unfortunately, how some buyers treat salespeople too.

This is why we thought of our vendors as our buyers. We wanted them to feel welcome. We even gave them coffee and pie! We wanted them to look forward to their “favorite call”—us! And when they did call, they shared their insight. We got the scoop on the market, the best terms, the best buys, and the most favors. Why? We gave them our thanks. We respected that they understood our business and chose to work with us.

Many vendors are taken for granted, or even worse—seen as a nuisance. Why don’t you reach out and share just a bit of the same appreciation you give to your customers? You might be taken aback by the results.

There are two different ways to make a profit: spend less and make more. Your vendors can help you get there, giving you an insider’s view of your industry that can only come from the ones who service it every day. So why don’t you make your company their “favorite call”? A simple, “Thank you for your service this year” is the right way to get started!

For more, read on: http://c-suitenetworkadvisors.com/advisor/michael-houlihan-and-bonnie-harvey/



Marketing Personal Development

Fill up your audience with the meat and potatoes…

It’s one thing to have bursts of inspiration…

…It’s quite another to develop them into compelling pieces of online content

I was on the phone the other day with a speaker who is looking to dive more into creating online content with the brand new lifestyle portraits we just created.

Since I’m a big fan of getting into the weeds with people about creating social posts and blog articles, I started spitting out the why behind creating a memorable online presence through the creation of compelling and valuable content. I told him that he wants all of his online content to either inform, entertain and/or inspire his audience into action.

I then dove into the importance of generating idea nuggets, and how they are the backbone of your storytelling strategy.

These are the insights, conversations, and moments that happen throughout your day – work and personal lives – that are the sparks of inspiration to create these compelling and valuable pieces of content.

Then, I started talking to him about the relationship between these idea nuggets and the image content that he now has at his disposal. The images, I explained, visually punctuate the sentiment of every story that he wants to share, whether it’s for social media, blog articles, an ad, presentation or even copy on his website.

As I was about to dive deeper on how to leverage his photos, he backtracked for a second and asked me:

“How do you develop an idea nugget into an actual post?”

Now, there’s a lot of books that have been written on this subject. You know, the Greeks and Romans put in a lot of work on this subject already, 🙂

Over the years, I’ve gleaned some valuable information on storytelling development from these foundational pillars.

But, as I’ve embarked on creating content that resonates with my audience, I’ve created my own customized framework in order to develop a process that makes sense to me.

Essentially, I break down online content development into 4 primary storytelling sections:

  • Opening Spiel
  • Meat And Potatoes
  • The Closer
  • Call To Action

But before I dive into what each of these sections mean to overall story development, let’s start at the beginning.


While I’m going about my day-to-day work and an interesting idea enters my consciousness, I’ll make sure that I write it down in my phone. Now, for you, that might mean writing it down on a post-it, whiteboard in your office or in a notebook.

The key here is that you’re writing it down and protecting it from your shitty memory that fails you on a minute-by-minute basis – especially in this hectic, short attention span world in which we live.

In some cases, I’ll go ahead and develop the idea immediately from my phone, or I’ll store it away for a rainy day and develop it at a later time.

Regardless of when I further develop it, the first step is to figure out what this idea nugget represents in the grand storytelling scheme.

Does it represent a teachable moment for my audience? Is it an actionable step for them? A funny and catchy title? A revealing statement about what motivates me as a human being? An example of my expertise? Does this share the type of experience I offer clients? Is this an interesting zinger that can be used to wrap up the post?

Or, does this idea nugget serve to inspire a completely different idea altogether?

Once there’s more context placed around this particular string of words with respect to the value it offers my audience, the next step is to determine where they fall within the storytelling structure I mentioned above.

Let’s take a closer look at these sections to help you understand their purpose.


Opening Spiel

What can I say, I’m a fan of Yiddish words, 🙂

Set the scene of your post by sharing a story that eases the audience into the point of this piece of content. This story introduces and reinforces the need for audience members to keep reading because they are going to learn something valuable, whether it’s related to their pain points or related to them getting to know you better.

What does the opening spiel look like?

Well, if we look closer at this article, the idea nugget that I had written down that spawned this article was simply:

Create an article that talks more about idea nugget maturation – from a thought to a post.

When I sat down to develop that insight-inspired nugget into a compelling and valuable story, I remembered a conversation I had with a client in the not-too-distant past about this very topic.

I realized immediately that was going to be the topic of my opening spiel.

Now, that’s one specific way to create an opening story, but there are many ways to open your post:

  • Start with a question that relates directly to a particular client friction point
  • Start off with misdirection – walk your audience down the “wrong” path before you grab their hand and course-correct them in the rest of the post
  • Create a contrast between the way you used to think about a topic, and how you approach it now (which represents the teachable moment for your audience)
  • Pull a quote from something you read that relates in one way or form to the lesson you want to share with those you serve
  • Share an observation that inspired a particular way of thinking about a topic
  • Share something that places you in a position of vulnerability

Regardless of how you begin your story, create an emotional connection and relate it to the reader from the very first sentence, and that will hook people in with your opening spiel and give them a reason to continue reading.

Meat And Potatoes

I like the phrase meat and potatoes because, for me, it symbolizes sustenance – the true value of what you’re sharing with those you serve. The opening spiel, however you choose to craft it, serves to move people directly into this section.

These are teachable moments – actionable steps, deep insights, and further elaboration – that your audience can take away and implement into their own businesses and lives.

Whether you’re providing them insight that illustrates your expertise, life as a business owner or life as a human being, this is the section where you flesh out these important story points.

Taking this article as an example, the meat and potatoes is the storytelling framework that I’m fleshing out for you now.

This is the takeaway that I want to impart to everyone reading this so they can create and implement a smoother and more fluid storytelling process.

Still got room in your belly for more? Cool – let’s keep it going, shall we? 🙂

The Closer

After you tickle them with a feather of value in the meat and potatoes section of your post you then need to tie a bow on this piece of content that ties everything together.

How do you approach this? You could:

  • Summarize what you’ve shared in a way that distills the important pieces into a handful of sentences
  • Share the potential results of them being actionable in the way you describe in the meat and potatoes section
  • Write a punchy and quick-witted closing paragraph that allows your personality to shine
  • Add a twist to the story and allow your audience to see everything you just shared with them in a more valuable and beneficial context
  • Offer them a motivational kick in the ass to get them moving in a positive direction
  • Create an emotional and touching conclusion that will resonate with your audience beyond the information itself

I have a bit more to go before I reveal my closer, so hang tight for it. I can tell you that it’s related to one of these above examples – and that’s all I’m telling you for now, 🙂


Why do we need one of these?

Although it’s great to impart valuable and compelling content, it’s important to include a next-step.

After all, we’re not in the business of posting content simply to throw out into the world and enlighten a couple of folks. We’re looking to build relationships with a community of folks that we serve and establish our value to them.

We also need them to know HOW we offer that unique value.

With that in mind, what do you want your audience to do once they’ve consumed this particular piece of content?

  • Pose a question to incite engagement on this post
  • Provide a link to sign up for your newsletter
  • Point them towards more content related to this topic in your blog
  • Encourage them to follow you on social media
  • Have them sign up for a webinar/workshop/online course related to the information shared in this post
  • Pick up the phone and call you for a consultation

Each piece of content that you create has its own call to action, so, you can think of different and interesting ways to allow your audience to further connect with you beyond the post itself.

Don’t flood your audience with multiple calls-to-action – keep their effort simple by only using one per piece of content.

I haven’t figured out my call to action yet for this post, but I’ll have something by the time we get there, don’t worry, 🙂


Creating consistent and valuable content is a pain in the ass, there’s no doubt about it. Even when we have interesting idea nuggets at our disposal, it’s still challenging to build entire stories around them.

That’s why it’s essential to have a framework in place to help facilitate the storytelling strategy process.

My hope is that the framework in which I leverage on a daily basis helps you in your efforts to create memorable, compelling and valuable online content.

Now, take what you’ve learned and go write some magical content, will ya?


This is just a sample of the storytelling strategy that I share with my audience through my 3x weekly newsletter.

Want me to do you a favor and send them directly to your inbox to save you the commute to my blog?

You can sign up for it here – and receive some free goodies in the process.

Investing Marketing Personal Development Sales

Build Your Sales Capability From the Most Important Core

Every sales performance expert learns that adding rigor and process to average selling improves results.  Not nearly as many know what rigor and process won’t accomplish the most important thing.  The detail and rigor that methodology adds often diverts attention and management energy away from the real work of selling: getting a buyer to see value in your proposal.

I sold sales skills and methodologies for almost a decade, and have helped many companies implement them. I have lived in a methodology for a quarter-century. I’m rock solid in my support these tools, but I have also come to learn what they can’t – and don’t—do. Typically, they allocate training time and coaching energy about as shown on this inverted pyramid:

The bottom two represent selling progress.  Without that, everything else is selling motion: activity — with or without progress.  If your people are already good at the bottom two, the top items are a great refinement. If they stink at the last two, fix that before investing in process rigor. In fairness, some people think that building customer value is a skillset reserved for product training.  Not really, although there are some elements of product training that will help a salesperson build customer value.

That Sounds Radical, Mark. Can You Back It Up?

Let’s look at some research:

CSO Insights has just updated its list of the twelve behaviors that correlate with the highest-performing sales organizations (World Class Sales Organizations, or WCSOs for short). WCSOs are elite performers, with 23% higher win rates, 23% higher rates of quota attainment (they achieve success more widely across the sales force), retention is 7% higher, and they make revenue plan at a 5% higher rate.  Summary:  you want your organization to be one of these WCSOs.

Here are the 12 behaviors of WCSOs.  The organization scheme is my own.

Organizational alignment around the customer journey:

  • Sales, Marketing, & Services
  • Sales Operations, Sales Enablement, & Sales Management
  • Consistency Across Channels
  • Data strategy that aligns and coordinates all functions

Value Focused selling:

  • Mutually-valuable customer conversations
  • Purposeful, [value-evoking — my emphasis] customer conversations, using a call planning tool
  • Effective value messaging

Their People are a Priority:

  • A quality talent strategy
  • Use of formal assessments in hiring and performance management
  • Effective sales coaching
  • A culture of continuous development (vs. “train-and-coast”)

Plus one outlier:

  • A rigorous forecasting process. (I happen to believe in one particular kind of rigor: value-informed forecasting, but that is only a subcategory of this more general behavior CSOi describes).

Look at that list again:  Sales process and methodology don’t make the top 12 behaviors of world-class sales organizations. Playbooks aren’t there either. Your marketing stack is only a subset of value messaging. I’d venture to say that every one of those world-class organizations uses process and methodology, but so do average-performing organizations. The results as I see them:  customer value focus dominates the mix of WCSO indicators: it forms the backbone of at least nine of the behaviors and informs the rest.

Here’s another research tidbit specifically on value-building:  Rain Group has found that Value-Driving sales organizations have 20% higher win rates, and are 25% more likely to grow revenue.  There’s more, but you get the idea.

Bottom line: value-focused selling is more highly correlated with sales excellence than a fine consensus selling methodology.  Sales leaders, and sales enablement pros: what does that mean to you in your role? How might it affect your plans for 2020?

What’s at the Core of Sales?

Value is the basis—it’s at the core — of all commerce.  And sales. Perceived value determines if a prospect will open an email, click on a link, accept an invitation to meet, sit through a demo…or choose your proposal over the status quo. Insufficient value is what prevents transactions.

Since value is at the core of sales, you need to audit how effectively your salespeople build it in your customers’ minds.  I have bad news. Most salespeople are good at going through the motions you trained them to perform, but are not that good at building value in your customers’ minds.

Practitioners of multiple sales methodologies have told me the same thing over and over (and I’ve experienced first-hand in almost a decade of work with one leading B2B methodology).  Salespeople are pretty good at the methodology details (the vast majority of top-of-inverted-pyramid training/coaching time and energy you drilled into their heads…after which they somehow got the impression is the most important), but are sloppy about understanding customer-perceived value…the core.  Sure, each methodology labels it differently, but the failure point is the same: understanding, then building value inside a prospect’s mind.

Every sales force has the same challenge…so do probably most of your competitors.  What does that mean to you in your role? How might it affect your plans for 2020?

Put the Pyramid Right-Side-Up: Value As The Strong Foundation

The foundation of selling is changing perceived value of your offer as compared to any other option, including status quo. Don’t build sales process and methodology on a weak foundation.  Make you salespeople superior at understanding – then building — customer value. Build from there.  Methodology then becomes a force multiplier.

Oh yeah.  Once they are good at building value, they’ll be better at avoiding discounts. VPs of Sales, CFOs, CEOs and board members:  what does that mean to you in your role? How might it affect your plans for 2020?

I’m not anti-methodology.  I’m for getting the biggest bang for your buck.  I’m for adding value to your sales team’s adding value. What are you for?

Like or share if this resonates with you.  Comment below if the mood strikes you. Contact me if we should talk.

To your success!