Tag Archives: Skills


While some still consider it a dirty word, selling is becoming a make-or-break skill.

The competition is too fierce.
The opportunities are too few.
And time is running out on personal brands that don’t include sales capability.

If you don’t consider yourself a sales person.
If the idea of selling doesn’t agree with you.
It may be time to think again.

Last month, I facilitated a session that brought together a dozen public and private organizations to discuss the future of business education. Held on behalf of Iowa State University, the session explored the question:

Has an operational and functional understanding of selling and the sales process become a business education requirement?

Iowa State is not the only institution of higher education exploring the question and educational providers are not alone in recognizing the rising importance of sales capabilities. As the author of “Everybody Sells”— a book that advances the thesis that organization-wide sales engagement is becoming increasingly important to organizational success — my opinion has long been registered.

The groundswell of interest in selling extends far beyond the logical advantages of possessing basic sales skills. The ability to articulate ideas, influence resource allocations and garner and maintain the support of other people is of undeniable practical and tactical value. However, one might reasonably associate similar outcomes to other areas of focus, including leadership, entrepreneurship and marketing.

No, it appears that the rising interest in sales skills represents some deeper movement, some more fundamental change. Moving from the one-on-one to team-on-team; rejecting form, function and price in favor of value realization—each incremental change has altered what sales excellence means and what sales performance requires.

The table stakes are rising. Sales success now requires the highest levels of product and service fluency, a deep understanding of client operations and the ability to harness and coordinate support from a broad range of internal and external resources. What better proving ground of tomorrow’s top executives?

If you’ve distanced yourself from the sales function because you still associate sales with manipulation, trickery, fast-talking or sleight-of-hand, you’ve missed a generation of maturity and development. And it may be time to join the club…

Selling matters—no matter who you are.

As always, I invite you to share your comments and experiences directly at jeff@jeffkaplan.com.

Until next time. Stay connected.


You’ll Only Get Answers to the Questions You Ask… (Flashback)

The devil is in the details and there’s no more fertile ground for relational bad-doing than what’s been left unsaid. Learning to ask more disciplined and purposeful questions will help you increase communication’s effectiveness, decrease unvoiced assumptions and keep devilish surprises out of your interactions. So, this week we’re looking back to 2015 for some timely advice about questions…

You’ll Only Get Answers to the Questions You Ask…

Discovering possibilities, opportunities and potential takes the same skills as uncovering ignorance, incompetence and evasion. It’s all in how you ask the question.

Executives, lawyers, salespeople and anyone that’s ever been in a relationship can benefit from a deeper understanding of questions. The topic is so important that in 2014, John C. Maxwell dedicated an entire book to the connection between leadership and asking good questions.

Here are 6 commonsense ways to ask better questions.

  1. Be specific: Clear questions generate clear answers. Specificity doesn’t mean that you need to structure your questions narrowly, but state them clearly. Remember, the information you request also defines the information you won’t receive. This is especially true in evaluating strategic progress with rich activity levels. If you don’t know the information you need, it’s unlikely you’ll receive it.
  2. Listen: A question is only as good as your ability to understand the answer. Life is full of nuances, so an answer may contain information or shadings you may not appreciate while you are hearing the response. Be thoughtful and give yourself time to consider the answer and its implications.
  3. Don’t play ahead: Avoid thinking about your next question while someone is answering your last one. Show respect and care by being in the moment.
  4. Avoid judgmental responses: Great questions facilitate great conversations. The point of the conversation is to learn, build trust and develop a platform for future interactions. Providing judgmental feedback is a sure way to shut down the entire process.
  5. Follow up: Having taken the time to consider the answer purposefully follow-up with clarifying questions.
  6. Open up: It’s a two-way street, others are likely to mimic the degree to which you let your guard down, share openly and be yourself.

As always, I invite you to share your comments and experiences directly at jeff@jeffkaplan.com.

Until next time. Stay connected.

Original Post: September 4, 2015 (http://jeffkaplan.com/2015/09/youll-only-get-answers-to-the-questions-you-ask/)

Read the Room!

Want to get the most out of your presentation?

Learn to read the room!

Everything you need to know about the effectiveness of your message, or the clarity of your ideas, is all right there for your reading pleasure.

Here are three tips to increase your room reading expertise:

  1. Face the Place.  As you begin your talk, purposefully make eye-contact with a few folks seated at various points around the room. Return to those faces often and note what you see. All smiles and nods is a good thing (go baby go—more like that). Faces avoiding your glance or busy looking around the room are likely confused, sorting out some aspect of what you’ve said and want to make sure they are not the only person that doesn’t get it (proceed with caution).
  2. Less is More. Running long in your talk is a sign of disrespect and/or a lack of preparation. It’s always better to leave them wanting more.
  3. Speech CPR. After lunch, the end of a long day, a dark conference room, excessive heat… you name it and a great presentation can fall flat. If this happens to you, cut the talk short and ask your audience to help you solve the problem. Let’s say you have the next great dot com and the audience doesn’t get why it is so great. Ask them for help. “Given what I’ve shared with you, how do you think I should describe what my dot com does?” Allowing the audience to take ownership of the idea will not only breathe life into an otherwise DOA speech, but could provide you with valuable insight!

This week’s shout out goes to Jason Smith of the TrueNorth Companies, an insurance and financial strategies firm. Jason’s favorite bit of advice serves as a wonderful reminder this week, “TIME is your only diminishing resource. Use it wisely…” Whether it’s your next talk, sales call or meeting, Mr. Smith’s advice is on point!

Stay connected!

PS: If you didn’t have a chance to do our survey last week – please take a second to answer a few questions now – just click HERE!