Sales Leadership Secret Weapon: Vacation

sales leadership vacation

My view right now is stunning.

The northern end of Lake Champlain is calm, like a dark blue blanket, interrupted only when a blue heron gracefully floats by.  Green leaves on a maple tree near the front porch cling to strong, sturdy branches as a breeze gently swirls by.  My cup of coffee is hot and the MacBook Air is in an unfamiliar position of having just one window open…the one I’m writing in.

Mastermind Groups: Taking your development to the next level

How pharma DMs can take a cue from the entrepreneurial world

If you’ve been reading my blog for any length of time, you know that I fancy today’s obsession with the entrepreneurial mindset.

The stuff I read, the podcasts I listen to and heck…even the existence of this blog itself…is a reflection of how much I believe in approaching work and life with a sense of purpose and control of your business destiny.

I’m a Want-repreneur… 🙂

Anyways, one popular practice of entrepreneurs today is the Mastermind Group.

While I think the name itself if kind of silly (and I’m open to other ideas…) the concept is really powerful.

You’ve Become a Creativity Vampire and Don’t Even Know It

6 Ways Sales Leaders Can Stop Killing Creativity

“Creativity now is as important in education as literacy and we should treat it with the same status.”  – Sir Ken Robinson

Do you agree with this bold statement by Sir Ken Robinson from his insanely popular TED Talk?

I do.

He goes on to suggest that schools, and companies, have destroyed creativity because we teach, educate and train in ways that stigmatize mistakes.

People are afraid to be wrong.Oh good...-2

And when people are afraid to be wrong, nothing original bubbles to the surface.  You get the same stuff recycled and regurgitated.



Looking specifically at pharmaceutical sales, there are areas where encouraging creativity and making mistakes is unacceptable.  There is an important obligation to healthcare providers and patients to get things right.  And legally, I get what’s at stake.

And let’s face it, the education and training environment we provide predictably follows suit:

  • High stakes tests
  • Certifications
  • Verbatim responses
  • Coaching checklists
  • Legal attestations

The process of learning is built around making sure that an accurate and fair balanced message is delivered.

Not always exciting – but understandable.

Add to this list the responsibility that leaders have to ensure expense reports are done correctly, that sales calls are entered the right way and performance metrics are in line with expectations.

You can quickly see how a culture lacking creativity takes shape and where trying new things isn’t exactly embraced.


BORING-2“Ok, Dave…but I thought you said that I’M killing creativity?  Sounds to me like the system and nature of the business is the culprit.”

And that’s the problem.

The general acceptance that being wrong and taking chances has no place in our little pharmaceutical world can permeate everything we do and literally become part of who we are as leaders.

We stop challenging our teams to come at problems from new angles because they might not work.  We stop tapping into the unique qualities that we all have as leaders because they don’t fit neatly into the prescribed game plan.

That’s what kills creativity.

And we own that.


As sales leaders, we have an opportunity an obligation to our teams to find appropriate places for them to try new things and risk being wrong.

To possibly fail.

To break away even briefly from the standard way of doing things.

That’s where the magic of creativity happens.

While there is no clear, uniform path for making this happen (given how unique we all are as individuals and leaders) here are a few ideas for re-kindling the creative fire on your teams this year:

  • Measure Failure: If you’re asking someone on your team to work on a particular selling skill (say, opening calls more effectively…) between your field visits – have them report back to you on what didn’t work instead of what did work.   In doing this, you set the expectation that they should be trying new things and that failure is simply part of the process.  If you’re not failing your not trying.
  • Break-Away Role Play:  Break away from stale habits and safe behaviors by having your team practice selling something totally unrelated to your product(s.)  You can simply use a product from the diner your sitting at or plan ahead and assign something fun from  This creates a safe environment to fail in and a fun laboratory to test new ideas.FullSizeRender (1)
  • Blue Sky Panel:  As a group or individually, encourage people to share how they would move their business assuming no restrictions or barriers.  Truly blue sky.  Creatively set it up as if everyone is “pitching” th
    eir ideas to a Shark Tank panel if you want.  Lots of ideas will fail but the debrief involves a discussion of what CAN be done (or some version thereof) from the list generated!
  • Ideal Day Design:  Similar to the Blue Sky Panel, have your team design their ideal, maximally productive day for you – individually or as a group.  Assume everything is possible.  What would it look like?   What could they get done?  Debrief as a team around the items that CAN be done (or at least some compliant version thereof) from the list!
  • Regional Reporter:  Create a list of things you feel your team has stopped thinking creatively about.  These could be anything from asking good questions to call plan routing.  Have everyone on your team reach out to someone else in your region and ask them to share how they approach that topic.  Have everyone share back what they learned and see if any new, creative ideas can be applied.
  • Book Club:  Find a great book to read as a team and run a book club meeting.  Avoid the temptation to use a boring business book.  Pick something interesting or fun that that gets people to think about how they are operating in the field and possibly in their personal lives. Debrief as a team on what ideas were generated from the reading and how they can be applied in the field.

This is just a partial list.

The opportunities are everywhere if we’d simply elevate the importance of creativity to it’s rightful place.

How about you?

What are some ways that you’ve encouraged creativity with your sales team and made failure an acceptable outcome?

Leave a comment below and consider trying one of the ideas above – would love to hear how it goes!

Until next time,



Beyond the Book: Talk Like TED by Carmine Gallo


Everyone has an idea worth sharing.


If you’re in sales leadership – sharing ideas, information and direction is basically what you do for a living, right?

That is why I was so excited to read Carmine Gallo’s WSJ Best Seller, Talk Like TED: The 9 Public-Speaking Secrets of the World’s Top Minds.

Even if we’re not formally “on stage” – we are routinely in situations that require strong communication of an idea or message:

  • Customer sales calls
  • Coaching conversations
  • POA meetings
  • Conference calls
  • Sales training events

Talk Like TED delivers amazing insights, gleaned from analysis of the most viewed TED Talks of all time, that are as applicable in these situations as they are on the big stage.

Rather than provide a play-by-play review of Talk Like TED (…there have been many of those already written, all better than I could ever do), I’ll share what I’m going to change after having read thUnknowne book.  Taking things “BEYOND THE BOOK.”

(See what I did there? :))

After all, that’s the goal of investing time in reading great

From there, you can decide if any of the information is useful for you or if you’d like to read it for yourself!


Gallo’s research is broken down into 3 main sections in the book and powerfully demonstrates that effective presentations are…

I.  EMOTIONAL: They touch my heart

The 3 secrets revealed in this section of the book revolve around the premise that ideas have real impact when delivered at an emotional level using expert passion, stories and a conversational tone.

Sound like the last conference call you were on?


MY CHANGE: Use more stories. Gallo dissects numerous TED Talks where the presenters used 3 kinds of stories: personal stories, stories about other people and stories about brands that captured the audience at a truly emotional level.

COOL INSIGHT: Researchers have discovered that hearing stories activates language, sensory, visual and motor areas of the brain and can create a “sync-up” or “brain-to-brain coupling” between the speaker and listener.

That’s how ideas spread.

EXAMPLE: Check out this TED Talk by Bryan Stevenson who spent 65% of his 18 minutes telling stories.

II.  NOVEL: They teach me something new

The 3 secrets revealed in this section of the book suggest that ideas have real impact when they teach the audience something new, deliver a jaw-dropping moment and are lightened with humor.

MY CHANGE: Look for and deliver jaw-dropping moments.  OK, that might sound a little over zealous for a sales guy, but opportunities exist to “wow” any audience. Examples from book show that the best presentations contain some kind “emotionally charged event” that the audience remembers long after the interaction is over.

COOL INSIGHT: Molecular scientist John Medina is quoted in the book as saying that “emotionally charged events persist longer in our memories and are recalled with greater accuracy than neutral memories.”

Sounds like the primary goal of all we do in communicating ideas!

EXAMPLE: Check out this TED Talk by Bill Gates from 2009 whose use of an emotionally charged event – releasing “a swarm” of mosquitos – had incredible power.

III.  MEMORABLE: They present content in ways that I’ll never forget

The last 3 secrets shared in the book include data on the ideal length of presentations, taking a multi-sensory approach and the power of authenticity.

MY CHANGE: Always take a multi-sensory approach. It’s so easy to pull a bunch of slides together with data and bullet points and assume that’s enough to communicate an idea – but Gallo’s analysis suggests it’s not. Pictures, videos, props, demonstrations, text – and mixtures of them all – is what gains attention and has power.

COOL INSIGHT: Dr. Richard Mayer, professor of psychology at UC Santa Barbara, shares research insight in the book suggesting that students exposed to multisensory experiences ALWAYS (not sometimes…) have better recall of information than those who only read or hear it.

Finding ways to have an audience hear, see, smell, touch, move is a MUST if you want your idea to stick.

EXAMPLE: Check out this TED Talk by Michael Pritchard, which has been viewed over 3 million times, who uses a masterful multisensory approach to communicate his message.


Talk Like TED was a great read and just filled with highly actionable ideas – the mark of a great book for me.  I recommend it highly and you can grab a copy just about anywhere…I snagged mine off Amazon.

Would love to hear your thoughts on this topic, so leave a comment here.

Or if you’ve already read the book, what did you think?

Now…go spread your ideas.  (And if you liked this post – please spread the word by sharing it!)


I hope you fail this week (seriously)

I hope you

I hope you fail this week.  Seriously.

Think about it, when was the last time you failed as a manager?  And I don’t mean forgetting to submit an expense report or missing a “coachable moment” with someone on your team.  I’m talking about a good, old fashioned belly flop.

If you’re having trouble thinking of something, that’s probably not a good thing.

Like many highly regulated industries, pharmaceutical sales leadership is an easy place to:  find a safe speed, throw the car into cruise control and just roll on for extended periods of time.

Maybe forever.

This can be a pretty comfortable place to hang out, too.  The magical metric generator spits out reports that say you’re doing great, you’re “off the radar” and your performance is right there in the fat part of the bell curve.

Comfy, right?   Everything is awesome… (Check out this quick clip of Emmet from The Lego Movie “following the instructions” and I think you’ll get the idea!)

Emmett follows directions

But let’s face it, that’s not where the special moments happen.

That’s NOT where we truly motivate, inspire and lead our teams to accomplish incredible things in their professional and personal lives.

The magic of leadership happens when we decide to try something new that just might fail.  Fall flat on its face.  Might even expose us to a little criticism or chuckling in the back of the room.

In fact, if we’re doing it right, we WILL fail.


People will think we’re weird, crazy or at least wonder why the heck we’ve left the cozy confines of the easy way.  It’s worth it.

  • Deciding NOT to do the same old field ride, the same old way
  • Giving that presentation the way you REALLY want to and leaving the slide whipping to someone else
  • Having the courage to try that new sales initiative that’s a little off the grid

Our teams are counting on us to do this because when we’re willing to FAIL – we’re willing to WIN.  To help them WIN.  Because out of the pile of misses will come a huge hit – the kind of transformational effort that will really make a difference.

When we don’t take chances, we might not lose but we certainly won’t win.  That goes for sales performance, your next POA meeting and the development of the folks you work with.

So…where will you fail this week?

Until next time,



5 Easy Ideas for Crushing your Commute


I stumbled upon a cool interactive map over the weekend which shares the average commute time to work, by zip code, across the United States.  I’m easily amused. 🙂

According to the tool, the average commute time to work in the US is 25.4 minutes.

Almost an hour in the car/bus/train each day.

I punched in my zip code here in Sussex, NJ (07461) and came up with an average commute to work of 40 minutes.  While my drive time is quite a bit longer each day, that’s probably a pretty close number locally from what I can tell.  Give it a try by clicking here and entering your zip code or simply hovering around the map!

If you’re in field sales, you add to these figures the drive time between customers and you end up with loads of windshield time each and every week.  And since time is truly our greatest resource, it’s fair to evaluate what we’re doing with that time and what we’re getting in return.

I subscribe to the idea that we shouldn’t waste the time we’re given on the road – it can be a gift.  So, here are just 5 ideas to think about to help crush your commute and make better use of your time on the road:

  1. Subscribe to Podcasts: Podcasts are digital audio files made available online to download to a computer or mobile device.  There are TONS out there right now covering every topic you can imagine.  If you’re new to this technology and using an iPhone, you can simply download the free podcast app, search for content you might like and subscribe.  Once you’re subscribed, new content from that podcast will hit your phone when published and you can listen away during your commute time.   A few that I subscribe to are pictured below along with the free podcast app icon.Podcast Pic 1
  2. Listen to audio books: I love to read books but find it really difficult to find time to do it these days.  I tried reading before bed recently and realized quickly it would take me 6 years to finish because I fell asleep with the book on my face in about 5 minutes.  A solution to this dilemma is audio books.  Again, not exactly a new phenomenon but if you haven’t leveraged the technology right on your phone to listen during your commute yet – try it!  I’m using the Audible App on my iPhone and just finished up Bob Burg’s Go Givers Sell More, which my team and I are using for a book club discussion.  I highly recommend it!Audio Book Pic 2
  3. Convert your online reading to audio: I’m just trying this out now.  There are several apps which can not only help collect and organize online content for you (news articles, blog posts, etc.) but will convert it into audio format for consuming on your drive to work.  I’ve been trying out the Pocket app which is quite simple to use and has worked well so far.  I’m struggling a bit with the voice over, which is a little clunky / robotic, but it does the job.  I would love any other suggestions on this one from you techies out there!Pocket Pic 3
  4. Schedule your phone calls: Catching up with folks during drive time is another excellent way to make the most of a long commute and one I’d guess most of us do pretty naturally.  A simple suggestion here is to be intentional with some of these calls and schedule them in advance to manage the time more effectively.  I can do better with this one for sure.Phone Pic
  5. Crank up the tunes: Finally, let’s not disrespect good ‘ol music!  While I haven’t done research on the topic, it is clear that music has a direct impact on our emotional state (one reason we used to make mix tapes for the special people in our lives back in the day…)  Use part of your commute time to play music that suits the state of mind you’re looking for at work.   Through the technological wonder of such tools as satellite radio, iTunes, Spotify and Pandora you can literally tailor your musical experience and rock your commute!pandora pic

A couple of questions I’d love to hear some feedback on in the comments section of the blog if you get a moment:

  • How long are you “on the road” each day for work?
  • What are some ways you find useful to make the most of your commute time?

Have a great rest of the week and thanks always for taking some time to check out the blog!

Until next time,


7 Ways to Lead Sales Team Conference Calls from Boring to Brilliant (or at least get close)

7 Ways to Lead Sales Team Conference

7 Ways to Lead Sales Team Conference Calls from Boring to Brilliant (or at least get close)

If you’re leading a field sales team today, conference calls are as inevitable as traffic jams and spilled travel mugs of coffee.  They also tend to be about as enjoyable.   If you haven’t seen this depicted beautifully in the Tripp & Tyler video “A Conference in Real Life,” please take a minute and enjoy it before jumping into the rest of this post.   You’re welcome. 🙂

While I can assure that conference calls will never be mistaken for days at the beach, I feel strongly that there are things we can do as leaders to make them more productive, engaging and even…gasp…enjoyable.  Here are 7 tips that can help you take your next conference call from boring to brilliant (or at least get close):

  1. Skip it if you can: Let’s be honest, there isn’t a worse conference call than an unnecessary conference call.  This goes for any meeting, for that matter.  Before you send out that next meeting invite be sure that the purpose of pulling everyone together on the phone is really worth the time it takes away from other things (time with customers, time with family, etc.)  Don’t simply run a call because you always do on Monday mornings.  If you can get away without running a conference call – then do it.  Your team will thank you!


  1. Know your content:  If your purpose passes the test, make sure the actual content for the call does too.  Just like certain wine pairs beautifully with certain food – some content jives well with conference calls while some does not.  Covering the mechanics of your new commission plan with time for Q&A?  A conference call just might do the trick.  Want to have a discussion about a new sales strategy or get some practice with a new marketing piece?  Maybe not so much.  Choose wisely.


  1. Send an audio agenda:  At a minimum, have an agenda for the call that can be sent out in advance via e-mail.  This gives everyone attending a chance to prepare themselves to participate.  But now, give some thought to an “audio agenda.”  Use your smart phone and record a quick 1-2 minute overview of your call’s purpose to send it out to your team as a text message.  Why?   Documents and flat text get lost in the e-mail shuffle and are really 1-dimensional.  They’re boring.  An audio clip allows your attendees to hear your voice, gauge your emotional connection to the meeting and its different enough to catch their attention.  Give it a try!


  1. Set a tone for participation early: Silence on a conference call can be deadly…crickets anyone?  One way to set a conversational tone early is to do a roll call survey.  When doing the obligatory check for who is in attendance at the beginning of the call – ask them to share something fun or interesting along with their verbal “here.”  In addition to having some laughs and getting everyone participating you’ll be building a cool list of interesting insights about your team that you can circle back to later!  Click the link below for a FREE list of 50 Survey Questions, some of which my team has used over the last couple of years to kick off conference calls.  Have fun.

Click HereTo Download


  1. Get others formally involved: I know, everyone LOVES to hear you talk but it’s important to change things up regularly by getting others formally involved on the call.  Proactively working with team members for help with presenting content, leading a discussion or opening/closing the meeting are great ways to increase engagement and provide a leadership opportunity for someone, too .  A related approach would be inviting a guest speaker to join your call in order to mix things up and inject life into your meeting.  Maybe it’s a small panel of guests available for Q&A on a given topic.  I’m working to get better about this one as we speak!


  1. Leverage technology: There are many tools and platforms out there today which provide excellent opportunities to turn your call into a multimedia experience.  There isn’t time to go into all of them here, but if your company has an online meeting platform like GoToMeeting or Microsoft Lync to present visuals – give it a try!   GoToMeeting even has an app to let folks jump online from the road.  How about an interactive quiz builder like Kahoot!, that allows participants to answer questions and compete against their peers in real time?  No matter your style or level of technical sophistication, there is something out there to help bring your conference call to life.  It can be easy, fun and totally free!


  1. End on time: To be totally transparent, I have some work to do on this one!  But the truth is, if you make a commitment for a 30-minute conference call…you owe it to your team to try and make it a 30-minute call.  Everyone starts watching the clock and checking out as the end time draws near anyway – so be a hero and wrap up on schedule!


While there is no avoiding conference calls today – or a silver bullet for increasing engagement – these tips should get you started on the road from boring to brilliant (or at least get close.)

Have any other ideas?  I’d love to hear about them in the comments section below!


“Dave___has left the meeting”

Routine Busting: Why where you’re meeting with your sales team matters

Routines get boring.

If you’ve ever coached youth sports you have likely seen this:  a few weeks into practice the kids start losing focus, they’re not as engaged in the activities as they were when you first rolled them out and you’re busting the whistle out a little more often.  You decide to change up the routine – add some new drills, mix up the order of activities or play a fun game and BOOM – they’re back.

As a leader in field sales for any length of time, there is no doubt you have seen this play out as well.  We are creatures of habit and cling to routines that structure our days.  It’s funny because despite citing freedom as one of the main reasons we got into field sales, we end up creating routines and systems that become just as predictable as the cube-farm environment we swear we could never work in.

I took a look at my own daily practices recently and realized how much these silent routines had taken over the smallest parts of my day.  For example:  the places I was meeting with my sales team during field visits.

Nearly every day that I worked with someone, my suggestion was to meet at the same Panera Bread or Starbucks.  That meant the same drive into territory, the same parking lot, the same coffee, the same tables full of other sales folks doing the same thing:  all setting up the same ‘ole day.   Yawn.

Now don’t get me wrong, I like Panera and Starbucks but the routine was old.  In the process, I was setting up my team up with an expectation that today would be same as the last time we met.  And the time before that.  I was setting MYSELF up for the same old thing, too.  How creative or exceptional were we going to treat our customers that day when we were starting off the day literally on autopilot?SplitShire-6682

So I decided to change it up last week.  No meeting at Panera and Starbucks.  I challenged my team to find interesting, fun, local places for us to meet.  The result?  A great breakfast and business discussion at Love Bites Café in Saugerties, NY where interesting local art hung all over the walls.  An awesome cup of coffee and performance discussion at Monkey Joe Roasting Company in Kingston, NY sitting underneath the renovated tin ceiling and school house lights.  We even ended up grabbing a quick salad at the Culinary Institute of America, in Hyde Park, NY where the next generation of chef’s are honing their craft.  My team absolutely nailed it.

In each case there was a sense of anticipation for the meeting and fun discussion about the cool new place we were meeting in.  It set a tone for the day, or just the meeting, that suggested we were going to try to do things differently and more creatively.  We even uncovered parts of town that we knew very little about – right in our business “back yard.”

As sales leaders, we have the opportunity to set the tone for our interactions in the field with even the smallest of choices, like where we decide meet.  You want to see more creativity?  Then get creative.  You want to see better engagement?  Then get more engaged.  Own it.

Give it a try on your next field visit:  meet somewhere new, fun and interesting and see how it goes!

If you’ve got a minute, leave a comment below with your own thoughts on the topic of meeting spots and any other ways you’ve switched up “the routine” to drive stronger engagement during work days in the field.

Thanks always,