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The Center for Sales Strategy Blog

Steve Marx

Recent Posts by Steve Marx:

10 Things the Best Salespeople NEVER Do: The Un-Checklist

salesperson-technology-451709-editedEDITOR’S NOTE: This post is by the late Steve Marx, and was written and published in 2015. To keep it current, we’ve updated the content to be relevant, but preserved the knowledge that Steve shared.

There are countless lists of what the most successful salespeople actually do. It’s time for a list of what they don’t do.

Let’s call it "The Un-Checklist"—the list you review when no one is looking over your shoulder (so you can be entirely honest), and where you hope that your honesty doesn’t force you to check off any of the items.

Get out your pen, ink, or virtual notes. I hope you won’t need to use them.

Topics: Sales salespeople

A Weekly Sales Planning System that Really Works

weekly sales planning systemThe following blog post was first published in 2015 by the late Steve Marx, founder of The Center for Sales Strategy, and has been one of the most popular posts in the blog’s history. Even though the text is updated, the message has never been more relevant. To learn more about Steve Marx, click here.

Most of us don’t head to the supermarket without a list in hand, and without knowing exactly what we intend to come home with. I needn’t explain why.

Likewise, most of us wouldn’t start driving to an unfamiliar destination without first finding it on our GPS and clicking for directions. Doing so gets us to our goal with the least hassle and the most efficiency.

Topics: sales strategy

Don't Delete Me! The Sales Email Subject Line


If you depend on email to grab a prospect’s attention and nail down that elusive first appointment, you should spend as much time honing the subject line of that email as you spend fine-tuning the entire body of the message.

Your competition is doing exactly that. If you do a Google search on "email subject line research" you'll find that myriad studies and tests are being done each year. And make no mistake: The big-time emailers out there may not be trying to make an appointment to sit down with your prospect, but in the email Inbox, they’re your competition. 

Some marketing gurus tell us that writing a good subject line is like—and as important as—writing a newspaper headline. Fact is, the email environment is much tougher, much bloodier. When your prospect sits down with the daily paper, he has usually committed himself to 20 minutes or more of reading, perhaps with a cup of Joe or a glass of wine readily at hand. Not so when he’s reviewing the latest avalanche of messages to arrive in his Inbox! On email, he’s in constant triage mode, ready to hit the delete button, allowing himself only 2.7 seconds to determine if there’s a good reason he shouldn’t. 

Topics: Setting Appointments new business development lead generation Sales

Could Something Be More Important to Sales Success than Having the Right Strategy?


It turns out there’s something much more important.

Let’s start by acknowledging the essential nature of strategy to the success of any venture, old or new, commercial or non-profit. Strategy is the grand plan, how your solutions fit with the problems they’re intended to solve, your path to market, your role in the competitive landscape, and the relationship you seek with customers. Important? Heck, yes. We built the name of our company around that word. 

Too many sales organizations don’t have a strategy, don’t believe their strategy, don’t understand their strategy, and/or don’t follow their strategy. Their daily activities are a mish-mash of ill-fitting, often contradictory, tactics, programs, projects, and promotions—Band-Aids to cover the gaping hole where strategy is supposed to be. They create a “the hurrier I go, the behinder I get” environment that wears everyone out and leaves the organization well short of its dream, its potential, even its short-term goals, quotas, and budgets. No wonder Sun-Tzu, writing 3,000 years ago in The Art of War, called tactics without strategy “the noise before defeat.”

Topics: sales strategy sales culture Sales

Wise Advice on Empathy in Sales—2,000 Years Before the Word Empathy Was Invented


"If you wish to persuade me, you must think my thoughts, feel my feelings, and speak my words." — Marcus Tullius Cicero (c. 106-43 B.C.), Roman philosopher, lawyer, and orator

Empathy may have been too touchy-feely a concept in Cicero’s day to have been awarded its own word. In fact, the modern word empathy is a 19th century creation in German (einfühlung), migrating to English in the early 20th. 

But as soon as a concept is given its own word in Webster’s (the lexicological equivalent of a star on Hollywood Walk of Fame?), the word takes over. It can take on all sorts of meanings never intended at its creation or denoted by its creators. 

Today, for most people, empathy is pretty indistinguishable from sympathy, from the concept of wanting to comfort others in whatever distress they may be experiencing, of being, well, touchy-feely. The drive to comfort another may be useful in sales from time to time, but true empathy—the ability to project yourself into the other person’s shoes—is essential to the success of anyone who is trying to sell almost anything.

Call Prep Beats Winging It Ten Times Out of Ten!


After 40 years of sales managing, sales consulting, and sales training, I have seen nearly everything. But I never cease to be amazed at those salespeople who pound their chest like Tarzan, have supreme confidence in their ability to wing it, and therefore don’t prepare adequately for upcoming meetings with prospects. They must think good prospects abound, that if you bust an opportunity there’ll be another one just as good right around the corner.

In the real world good prospects are precious, and blowing it because you weren’t prepared is unforgivable. A capital sin because it’s so preventable. The kind of mistake that should prompt your boss to show you the door.

Topics: successful sales meetings Sales

Your People Are Watching Your Every Move (and non-move)

newMy colleague Jim Hopes wrote recently about the importance of expectations, explaining our lever analogy . People learn and grow in response to the expectations set by others—parents, teachers, friends, colleagues, mentors, and in the workplace, most especially managers who know how to do their job.  Expectations are most effective when they’re individualized, tailored to the unique strengths of each person you manage and to where they are in their growth curve.

Topics: sales management Sales

Add One Word to Your Definition of Prospecting and See What Happens

prospectingSince the first salesperson roamed the earth in prehistoric times (yes, we know what she was selling, but that’s not the focus of this article!), prospecting has been defined as looking for people who might become customers, or simply, looking for customers.

There’s a slightly different definition, not nearly as well known, that opens up a whole new vista of opportunity: Looking for customer needs. Just one word is different, but it changes the entire meaning.

What this New Definition Does to You

The first thing that happens when you add that word is that you automatically—instantaneously! —start focusing on customer needs instead of the products and services you handle. Your empathy, expertise, and problem-solving capabilities take center stage, making you more interesting, more useful, and more likely to be viewed as a trusted and valued source.

Topics: Sales sales process

The Lone-Wolf Sales Model is Making Your Life Tougher than It Needs to Be

lone-wolfWe’re big believers in talent. And nothing confirms our trust in talent more than when we witness a direct connection between the talent level of a given salesperson and the success they achieve. When highly talented, that success happens more quickly and it lasts over the long haul—and when talent is softer, success is modest at best.  Same is true for highly talented sales staffs versus those less talented. 

But our confidence in the predictable relationship between strong sales talent and strong sales performance has confirmed something else: Talent is rare and precious. Talented salespeople are worth their weight in gold not only because they produce prodigious returns on the investment employers make in them, but also because they’re so darn hard to find. And a staff full of such salespeople? A sales manager should count him/herself an unusually outstanding recruiter and manager if half the staff is highly talented. 

Topics: Management

Derail the Sale? Five Sure-Fire Ways

Now, be warned. Each of these methods for undermining success is potent. If your purpose is to ensure that the prospect doesn’t buy, all you need is one of these five. Any one will do.

1. Fail to Qualify the Prospect


Since this is the first significant step in any professional B2B selling process, it’s your first opportunity to mess up. And this mistake has become harder to make in recent years, but if you go out of your way, you can do it. Harder to make? Yes. Qualifying the prospect requires information, and information is abundant these days. You can search for information about a company and find buckets full. In some cases, you can learn about specific challenges they’re facing or opportunities they’re chasing. And information about specific people at the company that you might approach? If you want to stay in the dark about them, be sure to steer clear of LinkedIn. Not only is it easier than ever to qualify a prospect, but these days many of the best prospects are raising their hands and qualifying themselves. But never mind all that: Derail your sale by investing gobs of time in an unqualified prospect.

Topics: Sales sales process