"I keep your 55 Great Icebreaker Questions in my Jeep and review
them before every event!"
Jim Higgins, ProForma Branding Excellence

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Archives for May 2010

Chocolate Covered Pretzel List

We’re almost at the half year mark! leading me to take a personal inventory of where I am in my business and my life at this time.

You know how chocolate-covered pretzels are an amazing blend of sweet and salty at the same time? That’s how I feel life is at this moment. Salty and sad for all the old stuff and people I must say good bye to. Delicious chocolatey sweet for all the possibilities and growth ahead.

Here are the things I am sad to leave behind, and the things I am bursting with enthusiasm to embrace and encounter.


1. Some old clients

2. My house (maybe)

3. Old relationships that no longer fit my new life ahead

4. Lines around my eyes.(I’d love to let go of these 🙂

5. Furniture and stuff that have been clogging up my space

6. Books that used to fill my shelves. Loved looking at them but they are not needed anymore.

7. Stuffy corporate clothes


1. New place to live.

2. My sabbatical in new countries – Italy and France

3. Learning to speak French

4. Some time in California soon.

5. My national speaking tour

6. New furniture

7. Reconnection with my family

8. Innovative high level experiences and programs with new clients.

9. New wardrobe/new look

10. All the new relationships I will be building, here, there and wherever I visit.

Seems as though the pretzel is more sweet/chocolatey than salty/sad.

Have you taken stock of where you are in your business/life at the half year mark?

You Can Go Home Again

You Can Go Home Again

Gina Ratliffe and me overlooking Pacific in Santa Barbara

I had a fabulous trip to California this past week. It was filled with learning important new strategies for my business, sharing valuable information, coaching inspiring and motivated business owners, and reconnecting with Southern California.

I lived there for four years after college and really enjoyed that time there. Many years later, my perspective is quite different. I have a thirst for different ways of living, a desire to be with family (I have a whole contingent of family in Los Angeles) and of course, appreciate the warmth and sunshine.

Visiting Santa Barbara is a whole other experience. It’s smaller, more contained, and while populated by the rich and famous, it’s more secluded and private. LA is so OUT there, Santa Barbara creatively contains its power. But there is nothing like  driving alongside the Pacific Ocean on my way north.

Although this trip was unexpected, I feel that the experience confirmed my sense that it’s time to see more of the world. It appears as though there will be more letting go of the old, and launching some new beginnings for me. Can’t wait to see what unfolds, for me, my business and my friends, clients, colleagues.

Business Fox-Trotting

So often I tell my clients: Be careful what you wish for – you just may get it!

That is what seems to be happening to me as I enter day 2 of mastermind weekend with my own extraordinary inner circle.

From the very first time I traveled to Paris, I yearned to live there. Not forever -just long enough to be immersed in the culture, the food, the wine, the art, and most of all, the language. OK, the people watching  ain’t bad either. I dreamed of spending more than just a few days, of traveling to the south to Provence, to drink in the experience of the culture instead of speed-touring it all.

And then there’s Italy. Can there be a more beautiful place to hang out than Florence and Tuscany? I’ve always loved my visits there, always dreamed of having 2 or three uninterrupted weeks of eating, drinking, museum-hopping, bicycle rides and runs in the rolling hills of Tuscany.

I “mistakenly” mentioned this to my mentor and mastermind group. Well, that opened up a whole slew of supporters and cheerleaders saying: Go, Do It, Of course! We see you there! Imagine the experiences you’ll bring back with you. Do it Do it Do it!!

My heart starts pounding as I let the possibility, the reality of leaving my life as I know it sink into my mind.

As I face the sale of my house, the vision of creating a space to live a life-long dream is taking shape. At first, I completely throw up every obstacle I can think of – relationships, leaving my dog, my clients, my business. I am being TOTALLY reasonable.

In my recent boot-camp, one of the most important days is BEING UNREASONABLE DAY. But doesn’t the lesson apply to the coach too? Did I put that session in for myself as much as for everyone else?

I am now sitting in my own reasonable vs. unreasonable discomfort, contemplating taking off for places where I’ve always dreamed of living, always making people, circumstances, responsibilities, money excuses for why this experience was off limits to me.

So what will happen, how it will work it out, what challenges I will overcome, what mistakes and feelings I have about it all as it unfolds, I don’t know. I just know that I am writing this at 4:40 in the morning, unable to sleep in the fear and excitement of all the new possibilities ahead.

I resist uploading this post. Once it’s in writing, people will be asking me about it, expecting me to go forward, wondering what I’ll actually do or not do, what it will be like to just go and live a dream.

So I resist the delete button so I cannot backtrack, so at least I move forward one step at a time toward an experience that I deserve and from which I’ll learn more than I’ve gotten in any classroom.

Stay tuned – could a reality show be ahead:  Nanc Goes To France? (Matthew Goldfarb, thanks for this one)

Making Rain Without Pain

Clients and workshop participants frequently ask me: “What’s the difference between sales and business development. Aren’t they the same thing?” Often I answer with a question: “How does it feel when someone is trying to sell you?” Ugh!

Daily, we are bombarded with “sales pitches” almost from the moment we wake up until the moment we close our eyes at night. I have a feeling in the not-too-distant future, someone will figure out a way to create some kind of moving ad, like a billboard traveling across the inside of our closed eyes, to pitch us even when we are sleeping.

Gaining new business and clients in the service sector is a totally different process than selling widgets. When people purchase services, they are purchasing something quite intangible. That’s why business development is anything but selling.

Business development is a relationship-building process where you are actually attracting new opportunity toward you. How? By being interested in potential clients’ needs rather than “selling them your wares.” When we are truly interested in helping someone’s business, they will be interested in us. Pretending to be interested just won’t cut it. People intuitively sense when we are primarily interested in selling them on how much we know and pontificating about our expertise. If you are dead set on telling people all about you and your smarts, don’t be surprised if you are rewarded with the dreaded blank stare of boredom.

People are primarily interested in one person – themselves. Work on asking them probing questions about their business. When you give them this clear expression of your interest in them and their business, it’s pretty likely you will find yourself being the center of their complete and undivided attention.

Most of us recognize it’s important to be working on business development, but it seems to take so much time for such a small return. It seems impossible to do all the necessary work for clients AND work on business development at the same time.

The key to building your business while you are serving your business is systematizing, prioritizing, and training your clients to adhere to this system.

Here are three key actions you MUST take to get a handle on your business development results:

1. Plan your business development activities for short spans of time every day. Make 2-3 calls or outreaches every single day, set up meetings for ideal candidates and track your calls.

2. Return phone calls and e-mails no more than twice a day. Ask people to identify if the issue is truly urgent.

3. Train your clients. You must demonstrate being responsive yet maintain control of your schedule. Clue your clients in to how you will work with them at the beginning of the engagement. They can count on you to get back to them in a mutually agreed upon amount of time. No one benefits from or feels confident about a confused, frazzled professional.

All three of these key action steps address a biz dev approach that I call “Daily Consistent Activity©.” By implementing “Daily Consistent Activity©,” you are certain to generate a healthy, flowing pipeline with greater speed and ease.

5 Ways To Drive Your Business Up During A Business Downturn

The worst thing we can do during a business slowdown is to panic. Going on a business starvation diet will only prolong the rough times. A business downturn calls for cool minds, steadfast adherence to sound business systems and structures, and innovative thinking about ways to create opportunities where only difficulties seem to exist.

Here are the essentials that can drive your business upward even when the economic climate is gloomy: 5 Ways To Drive Your Business Up During A Business Downturn –

1. Be thrifty with your expenditures but generous with praise for employees and coworkers. You want to be especially cautious about spending without starving the business. And it is also the perfect time to upgrade the team atmosphere so your entire staff works together in strategizing ways to not only preserve the business but enhance it.

2. Avoid having too great a percentage of your business with one or two customers; diversify and spread your business over a broader customer base. Ideally, you will have been preparing for this ahead of the downward curve, but if you haven’t, challenge your entire marketing and sales team to come up with ways to put more of your sales eggs in other baskets as quickly as possible.

3. A contracting business climate also offers new opportunity. Be flexible and strategize new ways your business model can capitalize on the changing market and come up with new programs to tap this.

4. Bring added value to your customers. Identify new ways you can add service and products vs. cutting corners on value. Study the competition carefully so you can be one step ahead of the curve and their value proposition.

5. Increase your face time with customers. Stay in front of your customers regularly. Find ways to connect with them, check in with them and find out what’s happening in their business. Stay connected and stay in touch. Let them know they are top of mind with you, and you will increase your value with them.

Open your Ears: Listen for the Opportunity you’re about to Miss

The manager of a megastore came to check on his new salesman. “How many customers did you serve today?” the manager asked. “One,” replied the new guy. “Only one?” said the boss, “how much was the sale?” The salesman answered, “$58,334.” Flabbergasted, the manager asked him to explain.

“First I sold a man a fishhook,” the salesman said. “Then I sold him a rod and a reel. Then I asked where he was planning to fish, and he said down by the coast. So I suggested he’d need a boat — he bought that 20-foot runabout. When he said his Volkswagen might not be able to pull it, I took him to the automotive department and sold him a big SUV.”
The amazed boss asked, “You sold all that to a guy who came in for a fishhook?”
“No,” the new salesman replied. “He actually came in for a bottle of aspirin for his wife’s migraine. I told him, ‘Your weekend’s shot. You should probably go fishing.'”

The salesman in our story did something so few of us are doing today.


As technology has advanced, our ability to focus and listen, really listen, has plummeted. We take pride in multitasking, scan blackberries for the latest urgent messages while our clients and colleagues are talking to us. We allow phones and email alarms to distract us in meetings.

I recently observed a manager of a major company checking her blackberry every few minutes while she was leading the meeting. She already has the reputation of blackberry-itis. People rarely expect to receive her full attention.

What most of us are listening to these days is a whole lot of BAD NEWS. OK, there is a ton of it. But there is also a huge amount of opportunity and good news you are missing because you’re not listening.

Recently, I was at breakfast with a colleague. Inadvertently, my breakfast date mentioned she was preparing to hold a lunch-and-learn on communications skills. I started to ask more about that, what the objectives were, what the challenges were. As I listened, I heard a need, and maybe an opportunity.

I offered to supply content and advice. I asked if she would like that.
The answer was not only yes but ultimately an invitation and an engagement to work with her company.

I did not go to that breakfast anticipating an assignment. Nor did I pitch to this colleague. I simply listened and therefore was able to hear a possible opportunity.

What are you missing because you’re not listening?

1. When was the last time you spoke to your top 5 clients and really listened to what was happening in their business, not just from the usual viewpoint, but from a completely new perspective?

2. When was the last time you had breakfast or lunch with a co-worker and just listened to them about how things were going for them? Did you turn your blackberry, or phone, off?

3. When was the last time you met with someone in your office and didn’t take any calls and turned email off?

4. When was the last time you were in a presentation to a prospect and really listened to all of your prospect’s concerns and obstacles to hiring you, not just the ones they are willing to tell you about?

5. When was the last time you didn’t cut someone off when they were speaking?

Listening in the 21st century is becoming a lost art, but a huge missing in our business development, and life, toolkit. Adults usually retain about 20% of what they hear normally; with all of our gadgetry and distractions, the retention factor is only a fraction of this.

So, how did the salesman in our opening story know there was opportunity lurking behind the simple request for aspirin? He had the presence of mind to ask questions, listen, put himself in the customer’s world. Then, and only then, could his offer for service be heard and received so favorably.

What can you do to tune up your listening muscles?

Here are 9 tips (a very abbreviated list) to pump up your listening ability:

1. Turn off the blackberry. Yes you!

2. Practice staying in one conversation – and only one conversation at a time.

3. After a conversation or meeting, jot down a few brief notes about what you heard. Go back an hour later, and jot down a bit more. You’ll be surprised at what you “heard” additionally.

4. Summarize conversations – they reinforce your listening.

5. Look in someone’s eyes when they are speaking, really focus on them.

6. Do not speak for one or two seconds after someone has finished speaking. You will give them the experience you have heard them, and you will be training yourself to focus less on what YOU want to say than on what the other person is communicating.

7. Repeat back what you have heard the other person has said. Ask if you’ve understood completely and accurately. You’ll learn if you’ve misunderstood, missed something, and give the other person the experience you really get them!

8. Ask probing questions. Listen to the answers as opposed to assuming you know what you their answers are.

9. Don’t assume. There is a big step between listening and hearing.

Practice actively listening for just one week. See what new results show up for you.

Hey, if you don’t find some new successes happening for you, your blackberry will always take you back.

Could Your Best Client Be Shopping Around?

A colleague of mine, Stan Good, is a fabulous service provider in the financial services sector. He has had a long-standing relationship with a successful real estate client, Max Abrams, for over 20 years. In fact, Max’s success is due in great part to the guidance and advice provided by very savvy Stan.

There’s no doubt that Stan has gone above and beyond the norm in servicing Max over the years. Max relied on Stan for advice in many areas of his life and his business. He advised him over a year ago that in order to accomplish a goal of having less pressure and more time off, he should hire a CFO. Stan helped Max find just the right person for the position. Enter Andrew Salinas.

Then, about 3 weeks ago, Stan received an email message from Max. In this email, Max expressed his concern about the high fees Stan had been charging over the last year, and he questioned the promptness of service.

Stan was stunned.

The tone of the email was courteous but stiff. It certainly didn’t reflect the flavor and warmth of their 2-decade relationship. And Max had sent him this email right before he left on holiday. Stan certainly couldn’t call Max or dash an email off to him to find out what prompted the message and disturbing Max’s vacation. And why would Max want the THREE of them to meet? Max had always met with Stan solo; he was Max’s most trusted adviser. Wasn’t he?

Stan came to me asking for some feedback about how to address the situation.

Here are my recommendations should a key client start to question your service and relationship or if you think a key client is shopping around:

  • Never send an email. Emails can be misinterpreted. Be patient and call your client directly.
  • Always request a personal and private meeting FIRST. Do not cut the third person out of the conversation. Simply ask for a private meeting as a prelude to the meeting with the third party.
  • Hear the client out fully. Just listen. Don’t defend (even slightly) Most importantly, acknowledge and respect your client for asking these questions. You want to make your client feel “right” about his exploration. Making your client feel “wrong” will set off alarm bells within your client and support a lack of trust.
  • Ask lots of probing questions. Ask your client what it would take to have him or her feel totally supported and serviced.
  • Give your client the understanding that you are completely on the same page with what he or she needs to feel serviced properly, and that it is your intention that everyone on their team experience that from you as well.

Once your client is assuaged, make sure your third party relationship feels included and supported. His or her agenda might be looking like a hero/heroine, or ensuring his or her value to the company, at your expense.

The key is not to bad-mouth the third party. The key is to be an asset to everyone on the team. Third parties who have personal Hero/Heroine or Lone Ranger agendas usually give themselves away.

Be attentive, responsive, and supportive.

Your commitment to doing the right thing at the right time in the right way will win back any client’s allegiance. People hate to change Trusted Advisors. They worked very hard to cultivate trust. Once won, it’s only ours to lose.

And Stan? He did in fact have an early morning one on one with Max. Stan REALLY listened to Max and all his concerns. The relationship is protected for the moment. But Stan is on his toes. He is not taking anything for granted- especially his relationship with Max.