Your Baggage Doesn’t Fly FREE

We will get to the emotional baggage discussion in a minute, but first, can you do me a favor? If you have not already done so, can you CLICK the link below and subscribe to our home site, The CAP Equation?

Thanks! We are transitioning this blog and all other content to that site and we don’t want you to miss a thing! Okay, now onto the baggage discussion.

Emotional Baggage. We roll it around with us. I know I do. I don’t want to, but ‘stuff’ from the past creeps in sometimes when I’m not vigilantly on guard. I’ve had a great sales and business career. I learned how to beat it back, control it to some extent, but I’ve observed so many others that really struggle with it. I’ve witnessed excess emotional baggage absolutely KILL the careers of otherwise talented salespeople.


Relationship Baggage

Sometimes baggage comes to the surface concerning professional relationships. A person doesn’t “trust” their direct manager, trainer or coach. They block out his or her advice. Oh, they pretend to listen, they nod their pretty little heads, but they don’t apply anything they’re being taught. The sage counsel bounces off their noggin like a 99-cent beach ball at Dodger Stadium.

Relationship baggage can also derail a salesperson from having healthy peer-to-peer relationships within an organization, becoming part of a collaborative team. It can keep them from learning from some of the talented producers around them. Heaven forbid if this same person winds up being promoted. Now they are someone’s manager and their lack of trust, vulnerability or openness means that they will be impacting many others in a negative way.

My friends with psychology backgrounds tell me that this relationship baggage thing can occur because of childhood scripting. This weighty form of emotional baggage is embedded in the experiences of childhood. They didn’t have a good relationship with their parents. They learned NOT to trust. This deep-rooted stuff can continue to trouble someone for years, forming personality and behavioral patterns that are not conducive to positive professional relationships.

Experience Baggage

At times I’ve seen salespeople retract from doing certain things that are necessary for their survival in sales. Cold calling quickly comes to mind. They begin to make cold calls, but at the first hint of how the numbers actually work and how nasty some decision makers can be, they recoil. What they label as “rejection” beats them down fast and hard. People saying, “NO” to them is intolerable. Their extreme reaction to what they label as “rejection” and “failure” can be caused by past experiences, things they failed to do. Or maybe they had “helicopter parents”, parents that never allowed them to fail or take a risk. Their reactions can also come from how they were told “NO” as a younger person.

At other times the experience baggage rears it’s ugly head in the form of a classic “know it all” mentality. “We used to do it this way at my last gig.” Sometimes a person just has stubborn old dude syndrome and simply won’t park his bags at the training room door.

Self Image Baggage

Over the 35 years I’ve been around sales I have seen nice, funny, good looking and talented salespeople fail to reach their goals simply because they had no idea how talented they were. They failed to recognize that GREATNESS was within them, right under the surface, just waiting to bubble over. They may have been told they were worthless by parents or older siblings. They may have come from a verbally abusive marriage. Or they may be a woman that has been a stay at home mom who is just reentering the workforce, struggling to find any kind of identity and self image.

Cultural and parental expectations, and patterns of behavior drawn from the family of origin and still unconsciously carried around, will impact all of us. None of us will be immune to this baggage thing. It doesn’t matter what kind of bags you are rolling around with you or have strapped to your back, it will all foreshadow the same result if left unchecked. Your negative emotional baggage will eventually sink you, because it’s a bondage to your past. If you allow it, the baggage can contaminate new and potentially more positive opportunities.

These shadows from the past can begin to create minor problems at first. Then as you become overloaded by negative currents from earlier times you will reach a crossroad. You will have to make a very definite CHOICE at some point to either permanently succumb to this baggage or declare your life a failure, or you can RESOLVE to set the bags aside for good and move on with your new opportunities.

Like I said, easier said than done, but necessary to think about and take action on if you are going to make it in a brutal environment like commission sales. So, unlike flying on Southwest Airlines, your baggage doesn’t get to fly around FREE with you in the overhead container. You are paying dearly for the privilege of dragging all your crap around with you.

My core belief is that I am better, more productive when I CHOOSE to close certain chapters from the past and move forward. It’s not like I haven’t had the opportunity to practice letting go of some baggage. In my (almost) 54 years on this planet I have developed some scars and some scar tissue, just like you and everybody else.

Don’t get me wrong, I had the most wonderful and loving parents that a kid could ask for. My big sister, Regina, was my idol growing up. She looked after me. I had a wonderful family. But, there was the bullying that started in 5th grade because I was the smallest kid in my class. A dozen of them followed me home from school one day and took turns hitting me in the face and stomach. There was the academic failure in middle and high school, the lack of ability to focus and get good grades. The poor grades resulted in ZERO options for college. Getting kicked off the golf team as a senior didn’t put a nice little red cherry on top of my adolescent sundae.

My early professional and personal struggles were thought provoking. As I entered the real world the hits just kept on coming. Losing $470,000 of our family’s money in a Ponzi scheme was kind of interesting. Having the Ponzi scheme perpetrated by my best friend at the time, (and the best man at my wedding) was a tad awkward also.

1987 – 1988 was a stimulating year and a half. Losing my business, having my house go into foreclosure, declaring bankruptcy and watching my marriage fall apart got my attention. But…those events don’t even represent the worst thing that happened to me during that time. While all of that was going on my father was wasting away from lung cancer in a hospice bed. The man I loved most in the world was being taken from me.

Oh, and there were a few more failed businesses in the 90s and beyond. So, I think I may be entitled  to own some baggage and to discuss emotional baggage. I’ve had to let some things go. I have had to choose to close some chapters so I could begin to write some new ones.

Dogs have no baggage. I watch my dogs, Buzz and Ozzy and they crack me up. Ozzy is a real sweet and obedient dog. He never does anything bad. Buzz, on the other hand, is the demon seed. He’s always pushing boundaries and getting into trouble. When I yell at him, he hangs his head, he knows he’s in trouble. I give him a good tongue-lashing and he slinks away with his head down and his tail between his legs. He puts himself in his crate…in a timeout.

The strange thing is, a few minutes later he shows up, at my desk while I’m working. He’s got a ball in his mouth. His tail is wagging and he wants to play. I’m still pissed off because he just tore into my rolling briefcase to chew up a left over Power Bar he smelled in there. I’m still pissed, bur he’s over it. He already let it go.  I  think, on a very simplistic level, that we should model dogs because they are so innocent. They don’t come with a lot of baggage. Painful events leave scars, true, but it turns out they’re largely erasable if you choose to find the lessons in them after a reasonable amount of time passes.

I can now look back fondly on losing money, losing relationships, losing businesses. It became a choice for me. I chose to dissect a lesson and a message. What was God and the Universe trying to teach me? What was I supposed to learn from this stuff? The lessons and messages will become clear to you if you are looking for them and listening for them. It may take months, it may take years, but the teachings and messages are there and you will find them if you seek them..

Life must be lived forward, but can only be truly understood looking backward.

I simply had to stop dead in my tracks one day and decide to set down the bags. I had to adopt the belief that there was nothing that happened in my past that could possibly hamper me from becoming financially successful and happy in the future. I smile about all of that stuff and other stuff that has happened since. I’m pretty much teflon now. You’d have to work real hard to get me unfocused. I know what I want to do, achieve and grow to personally and professionally.

So, what sort of emotional baggage is holding you back? What do you need to stop rolling around with you and let go of? What do you need to look at differently, take the lessons from?

I wish life were as easy as a Southwest flight. But it doesn’t work that way. In the real world your baggage doesn’t fly free.

I hope this blog article was helpful. Do me a favor and let me know if it was…leave a COMMENT…tell me how you used this. Also feel free to pass this along to someone that may need to read it.

Also, remember to sign up on the CAP Equation site.


Your Unique Selling Proposition (USP) (elevator pitch)

Hello Everyone!

It’s been a moment since I last blogged. No excuses. I’ll do better. LOL!

But we do have our CAP Equation site up and running! On that subject, could I ask you to PLEASE go to the link below and sign up on our home site?

Click here: (There is NO cost)

Two reasons you may want to do this…

First, we will have some great written content and video training in production that will be released in the coming weeks. (You don’t want to miss this stuff!) Secondly, we will be consolidating this WordPress blog site into our CAP Equation site and if you are not OPTED IN by the time we phase out you will not receive any future content.

Click on this link…

Thanks…okay, now let’s learn how to build a USP.

Your unique selling proposition, (USP) is the bedrock of how you present your personal brand, your  organization and your solutions. Your USP should also be condensed into an abridged version of what you do, how you do it, why it’s unique and how it benefits people.

We also use the slang terminology, “elevator pitch” to describe this shortened version. The term comes from the thought that a well crafted—but abbreviated—USP can be delivered to a person you meet on an elevator between the 8th floor and the lobby. It’s a very handy skill and should be one of the first things you script for yourself and commit to personalization. It will be used whenever you have an opportunity to network, create a direct or indirect lead or anytime you are put on the spot and asked to describe what you do.


USPs aren’t new. They’ve been used in successful advertising campaigns since the early 1940s. As you are probably aware, advertisers create unique propositions that convince customers to switch brands. These advertisers create a differentiation between themselves and their competition. Theodore Levitt, a professor at Harvard Business School, stated that:

Differentiation is one of the most important strategic and tactical activities in which companies must constantly engage.

Levitt’s statement is important because you want to be remembered in a jam-packed marketplace, it helps if you or your brand has a trait that is worth remembering. While great products are vital in growing your sales, there’s still an opportunity to use differentiation as a competitive advantage so that you can “stand out like a sore thumb.”

So, bottom line on this, you need to strive to position yourself, your band and products, in a prospect’s mind in a way that sets you apart from others. You want to occupy a piece of mindshare with your contact or prospect, one that connects your brand’s trademark with a clear benefit claim. It’s also important to remember that consumers don’t want to buy products—they want to solve problems. Your USP or elevator pitch should make your business irresistible to your contacts.

The challenge I see with most people’s elevator pitch is that they’ll answer the question, “So, what do you do?” too literally. They will answer or introduce what they do in such a way that it doesn’t engage or provoke thought with the person they’re talking with. That dreary answer certainly doesn’t prolong the conversation productively.

Here’s a personal example…I’m an author and sales trainer and somebody asks me what I do. I could say:

“I write books on sales and also coach and train salespeople.”

This of course would be a truthful and forthright answer. It would also be a response that wouldn’t accomplish anything or further my objectives. The person on the other end is likely to answer, ‘Oh, that’s nice,” and then change the subject, fall asleep, or walk away.

Let’s change this up a little bit. Let’s take a few minutes and walk through the pieces of a well-crafted and abridged USP, your elevator pitch. I will use the business I’m in as an example. Please note that everything in parentheses can be altered to suit the particulars of your products or organization, and also note that this structure applies to B2B as well as individual product sales.

Our, (coaching and training programs) are…

  • FOR (professional salespeople and sales leaders)
  • WHO (have a burning desire to jump to the next level of income, but need solid guidance in order to get there)
  • (The CAP Equation©)
  • IS (a set of proven methods and resources)
  • THAT (produce SOLID results for sales professionals)
  • UNLIKE (other programs that may offer complex theories that haven’t been proven out in the real world)
  • WE ARE (one of the few focused sales and leadership training organizations led by a person with 35 years of hands-on field experience)

Do you see the difference? There is a clear benefit claim. I think you can see that it’s pretty easy to craft an elevator pitch once you use this type of foolproof template. This tool provides you with a way to articulate your offer in a concise way to your business contacts.

When you are face to face with a person that has a direct or indirect center of influence, one that can benefit you, you need to be ready…you need to know how to engage them, cause a differentiation in their mind between you and all others in your industry. These are golden opportunities that can propel your career forward. Work up your USP, your elevator pitch. Get good at it fast.

Give this a try…copy this template onto a blank sheet of paper and create your own USP:

Our programs are FOR: __________________________________________________________


WHO: ________________________________________________________________________


(Name of your organization) _______________________________________________________

IS: ___________________________________________________________________________

THAT: ________________________________________________________________________


UNLIKE: ______________________________________________________________________


WE ARE: _____________________________________________________________________


I hope this blog article was helpful. Do me a favor and let me know if it was…leave a COMMENT…tell me how you used this.

Also, remember to sign up on the CAP Equation site.

The Valuable Sands of Time

It’s not uncommon in our world to applaud workaholics. Hold them up as heroes. You’ve seen this type of highly charged entrepreneur or independent salesperson. They race around, cantankerously announcing that they are exhausted, so busy, swamped, slammed. They’ll tell you there isn’t enough time to get everything done. They think they’re successful, you think they’re successful, and they definitely seem prosperous to the world. But, if you think about it, that really doesn’t make much sense. You can only TRULY be successful if you can actually reap the benefits of your hard work.


Look, I’m probably the last one that should point fingers. I ran 60 – 70 hours a week for close to two decades, never taking a true vacation. (A cell phone or beeper was always strapped to my side.) When I began to take stock of my life, I realized that I had not taken a vacation longer than 7 days since I’d begun my commission-selling career in 1979. I’m not sure I was completely present to my wife and daughter during my go-go years. I still struggle with that now, even in semi-retirement.

As I have slowed a bit and crossed the line, joined the 50+ Club, I’ve started to look at things a little bit differently. I value my time more and place emphasis on the things that are really important to me. I’m not suggesting you lessen your commitment to your career or organization, I’m simply suggesting that it may be possible for you to strike more balance in your work and personal life. This, in turn, will even improve your work performance.

Instead of working harder, I recommend you learn to work smarter.

I start my weekdays early, enjoying how quiet everything is. I’m able to focus on the tasks that need to get done. My routine is usually to work on a few creative things such as writing blogs or editing other content. I’ll reply to the emails that have built up in my inbox. A lot gets done. I make a game out of getting task-oriented things off my ‘to-do’ list before 8:00 AM. This gives me more time later in the day for high ROI projects, calls that come in, or any unexpected issues. Because I stay highly productive during the week, I’m able keep my weekends mostly free.

Here are some thoughts on the VALUE of your time:

More Clarity/Better Judgment

It’s humorous to me when independent business owners and salespeople say that the reason they became independent is to have control of their time. The stark reality is that when you begin your sales career, new venture, or business, you’re going to have to pump harder than you ever dreamed of. I’m experiencing that very thing now. I’m learning how to write, be a paid speaker, develop coaching programs…it’s all very new and kind of daunting. There aren’t  enough hours in the day. I can literally work around the clock and never whittle down my ‘to-do’ list! The more you do, or sell, the more decisions you have to make.

My experience tells me that when I slow it down on the weekend, shut off my brain for a few hours and do something fun, I’m able to develop more clarity about business issues. I find that when I take the time to reboot, I am able to make better decisions and find solutions on Monday morning.

Sunday Night LIVE

Doesn’t it SUCK to be running around on Monday morning without a clear agenda of priorities for the week? If your calendar isn’t airtight, you feel rattled and disorganized.

I hated that, so I started taking some focused planning time on Friday afternoon to look ahead to the next week and get my calendar wired. My big calendar checkpoint, however, transpired on Sunday night. I would spend 15 – 20 minutes Sunday evening, looking at my calendar, making sure I knew where I was going, what I was going to focus on. I fine-tuned. I made sure that I knew what my top 3 priorities were for the week and that those items were INKED in my calendar. At first, I thought I was the only nut-job staring at my calendar on a Sunday night until I started checking around. What I found was that most of the elite producers were doing the very same thing.

Round Yourself Out

Most hard-charging salespeople and entrepreneurs understand that passion is a vital element to becoming successful. It’s also important to follow your passion(s) outside of work. Use your weekend to explore your creative side. The activity doesn’t really matter. What’s important is to take a break. These non-work related pursuits will make you happier and a better rounded person. This is another way to re-boot. You’ll start your week with fresh batteries.

Maybe You Should Unplug?

I’m not great at meditating, but I’m learning different ways to clear my very busy head. But, it’s hard to clear your head or relax if you are tethered to your personal electronic devices 24/7. Technology has made it difficult for us to unplug. One small step you can take is to keep your devices out of your hands and in a drawer on the weekends, at least for longer blocks of time.

I recently spent some time with the best selling author, Jack Canfield. During a break, he told me that during a “FREE DAY” (for him that’s a day he does NO work) he doesn’t have any electronic devices near him. He’s truly unplugged! After one day of observing me, sizing me up, Jack told me that he didn’t think I could set down my phone and take a real free day. I’m still trying to prove him wrong…getting closer by the day. LOL!

If you think about it, most of us aren’t saving lives. A patient isn’t going to die if we miss a call or email. Everything will still be there when you get back to work. We live in a competitive world. Taking a break, some unaffected FREE TIME on the weekend will allow you to take a hard look at where you are and determine where you want to go next.

Functional Family

If you gain wealth, recognition, stature and power and then you lose your family what have you really gained? You work hard because you want to give yourself and your family the best of everything. Sometimes the biggest sacrifice you’ll have to make as an entrepreneur is spending limited time with your love ones. Use the weekends to spend time with them. Take time out to get together with friends and socialize. Success means nothing if you’re not able to share it with people that you love.

The Hourglass

Even though I’m suggesting that you take time off from work during the weekend, it is also critical not to waste your leisure time on mindless activities or doing chores. So, what I’m saying here is, try to work smarter, value and use your time better. Avoid human and artificial time vampires. Quit checking your emails and unplug. Use your down time to rejuvenate rather than exhaust yourself. Running a successful business is great, but taking care of your health and your family while also doing things you love is also important.

I have a small hourglass on my bookcase in my home office in Northridge. Once in a while I’ll turn it upside down. I simply watch it as the sands drop through the small hole, at first slowly and then, at the end, the sand seems to drop faster. Then, the hourglass is still. There is no more sand, no more time.

The small hourglass is my reminder that time well spent with loved ones, doing the things that put a smile on our face, not just the pursuit of money or recognition, is by far, the most valuable commodity we have. As the old saying goes, you don’t hear a person on their deathbed say; “I wish I could go into my office just one more Saturday and clean up some files.” What they wish they could do is have one more week…heck, maybe just one more day, with the people they love, doing the things with them that were fulfilling.

If you are still not convinced that time well spent is more valuable than money, please read this poem, written by by Rinku Tiwari.

To realize the value of a year, 

Ask a student who failed in the exam.

To realize the value of a month, 

Ask a mother how she spends the first month with her child.

To realize the value of a week, 

Ask a patient how he recovers from his illness.

To realize the value of an hour, 

Ask a student who missed the class.

To realize the value of a minute, 

Ask a person who missed the train.

To realize the value of a second, 

Ask a person who saved you from an accident.

To realize the value of a millisecond, 

Ask a person who has won the medal in the competition.

Spend your time well, and oh…please leave me a comment.




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The TOP 3 Sales Priorities (And, there isn’t a #4!)


This blog article will explore one of those unwritten rules that will ensure a successful sales career. (IF you understand and practice it) The antithesis of this law is also exact. It’s one of those laws that, if not applied regularly will absolutely kill your career in short order.

There are very few certainties in life and in sales, but this is one of them. It’s an inevitability that you can rise to the top of your industry if you focus on and work your top PRIORITIES on a daily basis. Pros know this, (and they know what their priorities are), but even they sometimes forget to stay in the practice of them when they get caught up in the whirlwind of personal and business tasks and responsibilities.

I will describe what I believe the top 3 priorities are in a moment. First, I want to WARN YOU that there will be a great deal of resistance or white noise that occurs as you attempt to stay vigilant in working these priorities. Day to day crap will fly in your face as you try to balance your calendar and try to stay focused. Stuff that seems important will make its way into your schedule involuntarily. This will happen hourly, even by the minute, but if you plan on being a high paid pro, you MUST STAY FOCUSED on the priorities of your business. Pros know how to stay focused. Amateurs don’t.                                                             

I refer to this as Majoring in the Majors.

Top producers spend a MAJOR amount of time on things of MAJOR importance. 

Pros are fanatical about their priorities and they get them done come hell or high water. Top salespeople know that their production and income is dependent on staying attentive to the things that matter. Pros don’t waver on this point; however, failing salespeople are all over the board on this concept. They don’t get this part of the equation right. They let the white noise win. They succumb to the resistance.

I promise to get to what I believe the top 3 priorities are, but you are probably wondering what I’m referring to when I use the word RESISTANCE or I reference the phrase WHITE NOISE. Resistance or white noise is anything other than the top 3 priorities; it is any more comfortable task or duty, (necessary or not) that doesn’t fall into the category of TOP 3 PRIORITIES

It’s any work that you choose to do during your prime selling time that takes you off the hook for the real important stuff!

If you don’t automatically ‘get’ that last statement, then please fold up your tent and get a job in a cubicle punching a time clock, because you are sunk already!

So, without reading any further, you probably understand that the TOP 3 PRIORITIES have to get done every day and they are less comfortable tasks than the top 3. You also probably understand that amateurs surrender to doing LOW priority stuff in the heart of their day. They roll over and slowly die.

Okay, enough about that…let’s get to the top 3 priorities…we can argue the fine points of what the top priorities are, but not that much. They have always been what they have always been, and they haven’t changed since I put on my first necktie and asked a prospect to sign on the dotted line. There are 3 major priorities that a frontline, outside sales person must focus on and they rank in this order of importance:

Priority #1: Writing the Order, (Or enrolling a member)

The top priority is to write orders, facilitate the sales, and enroll members. This is the payoff. Everything you do with your primetime selling hours needs to feed this objective. If you have the opportunity to close and write an order, this is your highest and best use as a professional salesperson. If someone says “YES” you need to be there with a pen in your hand and the pen should have ink in it.

Priority #2: Face to face with a Decision Maker

If you are not busy taking an order, then your second most important urgency is being face-to-face with, presenting to, and closing a targeted prospect. While Priority #1 is your payoff, Priority #2 and #3 is how you get there. Every minute of your time, every ounce of your energy, (if you are not busy writing an order) should be spent getting in front of decision makers so you can tell your story.

Priority #3: Driving Appointments, (with Qualified Prospects)

I mentioned earlier you need to “Major in the Majors.” That is, you need to spend a major amount of time on things of major importance to your business. So, it stands to reason that if you are not doing #1, writing an order, or doing #2, presenting to a decision maker, then you better be doing #3. You better be filling your pipeline and prospecting like a crazy person. If you are brand new, or restarting your career, a full calendar of qualified appointments will be the only thing that will save you. 

There you have it. Those are the top 3 priorities for a frontline salesperson. Like the commercial on T.V. says, “It’s not that complicated.”

When I explain and expand upon this concept of the top 3 priorities during a live CAP Equation® training event or at a CAP Live® group coaching session, I’m often asked what the next, or 4th priority of most importance is.

To answer this collective question, I simply reflect back upon a time when I walked into our training room, back in the mid 2000s, and I observed our state training coordinator, Jody Willis, teaching this very concept to our new sales associates. A man raised his hand and asked this same question. Now, instead of Jody neatly categorizing what may be of secondary importance, what may #4 on the list, he opted for a more direct assault on the question. Jody answered tersely:

“There isn’t a #4” 

I watched the bemused and confused faces after Jody’s curt answer. I observed a few of the new salespeople write Jody’s answer down. Others raised their hands to argue the point or to attempt to rationalize that there may be other things that should be practiced during prime selling hours. The new salespeople that took Jody’s answer as gospel were most likely the people that stuck and stayed and profited.

I’m not sure I can speak for the others.

So there you have it. There are 3 top priorities, things that you should spend your prime selling time on, and nothing else.

Oh, and if anyone tries to tell you any different, they are lying to you.

Follow Joe B.




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Everybody Needs to be Invited to the Party!

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The action or state of including or of being included

within a group or structure.

The stimulus for my blog articles lately seems to be running in a common theme. My inspiration is radiating to me from the sky, from some old friends and mentors. Their voices and words bounce around in my head, won’t go away. These are people that were very important to the formation of my original thoughts about sales and leadership. These teachers have been on my mind a lot lately.

Their words and examples have aged very well. 

Before we get started I want to tell you that there’s definitely a right way and a wrong way to do just about everything in sales and sales management. Unfortunately, I have seen a lot of the latter as of late. Leadership incompetency is far more common than leadership mastery. I spoke to someone recently that simply didn’t feel a part of her chosen organization any longer. Her lack of feeling like she “belonged” was a huge contributing factor in her decision to leave that organization.

Now, I have to tell you, she wasn’t a slouch; she was a top producer and a solid manager with a great track record. She was hard to replace and the fact is that the person that replaced her was less experienced and less effective in the role—and he’s already gone! A talented person was slowly run off, replaced by a person that fit more of the organization’s idea of what a good ole’ boy looked like.

Last week I told you about a lesson handed to me by Tom Smith. This week I’m going to tell you about one thing I learned from a gentleman named Bill Krzciok.

Bill K. was old school for sure. He believed in creating a thick cult of personality, that is to say that he ran a PERSONALITY driven organization.

But the key was that it didn’t have to be just like HIS personality.

He wasn’t big on systems—probably a weakness I’ve been accused of at times—but he always seemed to hit his numbers when others around him did not. He also stayed in one place long enough to create traditions, a few legacy teams and a few legacy leaders.

There were many leadership lessons passed on to me by Bill K., but I will just focus on of the more pertinent ones for the sake of this short blog article.

This example is one of INCLUSION and the power of it.

From the very first time I observed Bill K. running a sales meeting, I noticed how he handled himself. Some leaders and managers that I’d previously worked with would waltz in to their meeting, ignoring some, patting others on the back, generally aloof to those that they didn’t hang out with outside of the office. These leaders would come late to their own meeting and leave early. I watched certain mangers visit a satellite office and do the same thing—they’d walk right in the front door past the receptionist and newer sales people with little acknowledgement. I’d even seen some leaders avoid calls from certain people—making themselves conveniently unavailable.

Bill K. was different.

When Bill K. ran a meeting, he was there early with his wife, Diann. They’d both be at the front reception table shaking hands and hugging people. They knew EVERYONE’S name…they knew every spouse’s name! They asked about kids. During the meal at his meetings, Bill K. would visit each table. He’d make sure to shake hands with each new person and welcome them to their first sales event.

He was also the last one to leave the event.

When I opened a new sales office in the Valley, he showed up unannounced. It was while we were still unpacking boxes. He rolled in a box of his own. It was a small refrigerator. It fit perfectly in our kitchen, under the counter. To this day, I’m not sure how he knew what size fridge to buy or how he knew we couldn’t afford one after the lease security deposit and the first month’s rent was paid! That wasn’t all…he went back out to his car and brought back a 12-pack. We cooled it down and all opened up a Corona, (at 3:00 PM in the afternoon) and toasted our humble new office.

While Bill K. was with us that day, he spent five or ten minutes with each sales associate, asking them questions, getting to know them better. He even helped us unpack a few boxes and then he dragged a few of the empties out to the dumpster.

You see, Bill K. wasn’t a big shot—he was one of us. He didn’t SEPARATE himself from the team; he bonded himself to the team, and the team to him. He did this with his inclusive actions, not empty words.  

Bill K. didn’t play favorites. If you were on his team, you were on HIS team. He made the newest person on the team feel a part of something special.

If somebody left Bill K.’s team, it was usually because he had taught them all that he knew and had recommended them for a promotion—which he did for me in October of 1995, a story for another time.

If somebody left Bill K’s team, it certainly wasn’t because they didn’t feel included. It wasn’t because they were in a ‘cliquey’ environment. Bill K. wouldn’t have any of that.

Bill once said to me:

“Joe, everybody on the team needs to be invited to the party. They are all out there working hard and they all have something to offer. They also have their own dreams and deserve to have the proper support to pursue them.” 

I visited Bill K. a few weeks back. He was in the hospital. His damn ticker is giving him problems. He had some recent surgery in the area of his throat and his vocal chords don’t work so well anymore.

He whispers.

Bill K. and Diann were excited to see me. After an hour or so of sitting on the corner of Bill’s bed, I was sad to have to go. I tried to thank Bill for the things he gave me, but I don’t think I did a very good job of that. We talked about old times and all of the old people. His ticker may be on the fritz, but his mind is razor sharp. He recalls everything. All of the details of the meetings, trips, people…everything. He whispered to me. He told me to say “hello” to all of the folks I still stay in touch with. He is still including them in his thoughts.

Bill K. has no idea the impact he had on my leadership style.

Before I left he encouraged me in my new venture with his barely audible words. His whispered inspiration in my left ear was volumes louder than any other words I’ve heard lately.

Are you an inclusive leader? Or are you playing favorites, omitting someone from the party because they aren’t exactly like you?

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Comfort Food – A very simple leadership lesson


Here are two of my favorite things. I appreciate a friend who can listen to you when you are in pain and don’t feel the need to pontificate or lecture. I also love homemade fried chicken. One evening, back in 1979, early in my sales career, those two things intersected and provided me some much needed comfort food and also a valuable lesson about true leadership.

I’ll start by telling you about Tom Smith. (Yeah, his real name) Tom was my first AUTHENTIC sales manager. He was the first guy to take me under his wing and offer me true mentorship. He taught me how to sell. Lets go one step further…he was the guy that taught me how to be a sales professional. He often echoed my father by saying stuff like, “If you are man enough to stay out late and drink, you ought to be man enough to show up to work the next morning”. We only had to have that talk twice! LOL!

Tom was a classic late forty-something guy. He was tall, good looking and tanned. He had salt and pepper hair that was always in place and he was never less than impeccably dressed. Tom’s cynical smile and a cigarette in hand were his trademarks. He was straight out of late 1970s Central Casting, that’s if you called for an insurance agency sales manager. Tom sold bowling balls on the road for Brunswick before landing in the insurance game with Penn Life. He and his lovely wife, Sylvia, lived in a modest but tastefully furnished condo in the San Fernando Valley, the second marriage for both of them, all their kids grown and gone.

Tom could easily show me how to become a PRO because HE was a PRO himself.

He was a salesman’s salesman. His pitch and his closing skills were sugary sweet just like his smile. That grin of his never left his face regardless of what occurred around him. He was unflappable, always on his game. He understood how to lead by example in the field and he knew how to pick someone up and dust them off when they were down. He was also effusive in his praise of people in public, but also knew when to take you aside, privately, and chew you out.

I was still inside of my first couple of months in the field selling on commission. To say that it was rough for me would be an understatement. It kind of sucked! I was having spotty victories, a sale here or there, but I was also getting beat up pretty good. Logically, I knew I needed to hang in there, the success would come, and that’s what they were saying. But, I just wanted to bail out on the gig. My emotional gas tank was getting low.

That’s where I was at psychologically—Quits-Ville—when I dropped the coin in the slot to call in my daily production numbers to Tom. (No…there were no cell phones in 1979) We were asked to call in and report our numbers at the end of each day. I gave him my numbers, ZERO for something…I think he heard it in my voice and then I said it.

“Tom, I’m not sure I wanna’ do this. I’m not sure I’m cut out for this.”

He didn’t SKIP a beat!

“Hey, Joe. You had a bad day. I’ve felt like quitting sales a million times after a tough day. Look, where you at right now? It’s about 5:15. Can you get to Reseda by 6:00?”

Then he asked:

“Hey, do you like fried chicken? Sylvia asked me to make my specialty for dinner. I got a sixer of Lowenbrau in the fridge. Get over here right away so we can talk about what went wrong out there today and fix it.”

Now, I have to tell you, I LOVE fried chicken—I love fried anything—and I rarely turn down a homemade dinner anyway, but, if you toss a sixer of cold ones on top of the chicken dinner offer, then it’s downright impossible to keep me away. I asked Tom for his address and headed over. After all, we were going to discuss what went wrong with my day and I wanted to hear what he had to say about that. (Not that it was going to keep me from quitting.)

I’d never been to Tom’s home. I’d only hung out with him once outside the office and that was for a cocktail gathering after work. I didn’t know what to expect from an outside the office/social perspective. I knocked on the door and when he opened it he was holding an ice-cold beer. He handed it to me, grabbed his brewski and clinked my bottle.

“Here’s to a bad, awful, shitty day,”

He snorted with that big toothy grin on his face. Then he took half his beer down in one gulp.

Tom was wearing a Hawaiian shirt, shorts and some flip-flops. I’d never seen him without a suit and tie on. His attire instantly relaxed me. He introduced me to his wife, Sylvia. She gave me a big hug and welcomed me into their home. She commenced to tell me that she wished she “had a dime” for every time Tom got “skunked” in the field. Tom dispensed with formalities and asked me to roll a few pieces of chicken in the batter while he fished a few cooked pieces out of the pot of oil and finished making the mashed potatoes and cornbread.

I had only been in their home a few minutes and I was already on kitchen duty. I was instantly part of their clan!

We dragged our drinks and plates of chicken out to the couch; Sylvia made herself a martini, flipped on the TV and dialed in the Dodger game. We listened to Vin Scully call the game as we wolfed down some of the tastiest fried chicken I’d ever had, except for my Mom’s. I didn’t want to over-stay my welcome, so when the game was over (and the six-pack of Lowenbrau was polished off) I left. Sylvia gave me a hug on the way out the door and Tom followed me out, draping his arm around me.

“You’re gonna’ be a great salesman. We’re gonna’ build a team around you.”

Then he winked.

“Let’s go get ‘em tomorrow. Put in the numbers and the sales will follow. Good things are right around the corner for you, Joe.”

That was it. That’s all he said to me. It was at that moment, as I walked to my car, that I realized we hadn’t discussed business at all that night. I had tried to. I’d begun to tell him how crappy my day was when we were cooking the chicken, but the subject mysteriously changed. Sylvia would interrupt me and ask me about my family or Tom would remark on how lousy Don Sutton was pitching. Every time I tried to bitch about my day, one of them would laugh it off and change the topic.

As I drove home, I realized that he didn’t invite me over to have me reiterate how shitty my day was. He got it. He’d personally had a million shitty days like mine. He didn’t ask me to come over so he could pontificate, display his knowledge of sales. Tom simply invited me over because he knew I needed a friend and some comforting. I needed someone who understood, somebody to reach in and pull me out of the murky water. Tom knew that I also needed to feel a part of something more than simply walking down the street and selling accident policies.

Tom, like any great leader, knew just what I needed that night. But more importantly, he knew what I didn’t need.

I had an amazing plate of fried chicken that evening, but the real comfort food was Tom and Sylvia’s warmth and laughter. The real comfort food was their willingness to open up their home and invite me in, like I was family. That sincere gesture spoke more to me than anything else Tom could have said.

After that evening, things changed from an EMOTIONAL CONNECTION standpoint. I wasn’t only working hard for myself; I was working hard not to let Tom down.

I couldn’t let a guy down that believed in me that much and would take me into his home.

I had a better day the next day…wrote some business. I did put in the numbers, in fact more than I’d ever put in before. And yes, the sales followed. Tom was right, good things were around the corner for me. I became a consistent producer and then an assistant trainer. Within eight months from that homemade chicken dinner I became the youngest sales manager that organization ever promoted.

Since that late summer day in ’79, I’ve passed the comfort food forward many times. I never made fried chicken. I knew I could never make it as well as Mom or Tom Smith. My specialty was spaghetti and red sauce. When I sensed someone was down and needed a hand, I’d start boiling the water and I’d invite them over. I wouldn’t pontificate about solutions to their problems. They didn’t need a lecture. I wouldn’t let them wallow knee deep in their own muddy waters either. I’d just serve them a plate of spaghetti and comment on how crappy the Lakers were playing. They just needed a friend. They just needed to feel that they were part of something bigger than just figuring out how to close their next deal.

All they needed was a little comfort food.

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The POWER of FUN in Sales


Does anybody remember Laughter?

I began writing this blog article last Wednesday. I wanted to make it impactful, get it just right, so here I am on a Monday morning, still messing around with it. LOL! However, this blog will be very different than any I’ve done before. This blog article is partially crowd-sourced! But, more on that in a minute.

Last week a person that I had met for lunch asked me why I thought I’d had so much success building and leading sales teams. He seemed impressed with the legacy sales teams I’d built, and he wanted to know how I assembled them. It’s a good question, but far from an easy one to answer. To be fair, there were many factors that made up the long run of success that I’ve been blessed to celebrate. I stammered out an answer, not wanting to pat myself on the back that much. I may have told him that I hired a lot of talented people and stayed out of their way. But, it’s not exactly that simple. Like I said…many factors, but if I were forced to pick just one dynamic that not only attracted people, but also compelled them to stay, I would pick the power of FUN.

I recall not wanting to leave Penn Life back in the early ‘80s. I disliked some things about the company, but I had so much fun with my boss. Tom always made me laugh; he was always cutting up, playing harmless pranks on people to keep them loose and he was always taking us out for a beer on Friday afternoons. How could you not love the guy? Eventually, I had to move on to a better gig, so I made sure to take him with me because he was so much darn fun to have around.

When I signed on the line that was dotted and became a card carrying MLM distributor in the mid ‘80s, I did it mostly because it looked like it was going to be fun, not because I wanted to sell soap and vitamins. My mentor was kicking butt and grinning the entire time. He made the business incredibly cool. Together we built a huge downline and I made tons of money, but more than that, I couldn’t think of a day during that incredible growth curve that we didn’t have a blast. (Until the very end when things went very wrong…but that’s a story for another day.)

When I accepted a regional manager’s contract in 1993 with the company that has a white spokes-duck, I had already experienced the yin and yang of sales cultures. I knew the difference between organizations that were alive and thriving and ones that were on life support. (Think of the walking dead.) I was committed to having fun and I told my team that if it ever became NOT FUN, I’d be gone. I began my management career with Aflac convinced that my highest and best calling (beyond selecting and training the right type of candidates) was to make the business enjoyable and create an environment that people wanted to flock to. (Sorry about the FOWL pun!)

It started with the way we interviewed people. We had a professional screening process, but I made sure to walk the candidate around the office so they could see people laughing, smiling, and having fun. It continued with our new associate sales training classes. Our training platform was serious, but there were game show type quiz sessions with cash prizes along with lots of good pizza and fried foods for lunch. (I know…not acceptable now with our health conscious society, but, please, this was the ‘90s)

Our awesome culture culminated with the way we treated people. We treated them like family. On the weekends, many of our sales people and managers would come to our home and swim in our pool. At our formal sales events they would come up on stage and receive an award in front of their spouse. We’d always have a live band or a DJ. After the awards were handed out, we’d keep the bar open and dance until the hotel kicked us out. We let the sober people drive home and bought rooms for those that over-imbibed. Our new people would comment that they’d NEVER had that much fun at a sales event before. They’d tell us that their spouse didn’t want to come to the event initially, but now were asking when the next one was scheduled for!

And the trips…we took our top producers all over the world. Most of the trips were on corporate’s dime, but the trips that my former teams still talk about the most are the ones we organized and paid for. We made sure that there were no formal business meetings and the “free time” started when they woke up and ended when the bartender yelled, “Last call”. Those trips to places like Puerto Vallarta, Santa Barbara, Maui, Cabo, Scottsdale and Palm Springs are still being talked about and the stories and laughs are more memorable than any commission check they ever received.

When someone had a tough week, month or quarter, or they were experiencing difficult times in their personal life, they may have thought about abandoning ship, (for a minute) but the bonds were too thick. If they got down and needed lifting, there were no shortages of people that they could have an open conversation with. This team was their extended family and you don’t leave your family. Family picks you up when you’ve fallen. Family takes you out for a slice of pizza when you’re down. Family helps you feel better in spite of your challenges.

This is what an inspired team looks like. This is what a team with a heart and soul acts like.

To this day, if I ever feel a little down or melancholy, I can still call one of the great friends I’ve made and we can conjure up a few of our favorite old stories.

“Hey Joe B., do you remember that time in Cabo when you marched over to the World’s Smallest Bar and you ordered 21 shots of warm Cuervo because you thought there were 20 of us following you? The waitress lined ‘em up and when you turned around it was just you, Marshall and Castro? That was awesome, man! I can’t believe you guys drank every shot of that warm tequila!”

After I wipe the tears of laughter from my eyes I hang up. I feel better. Whoever said, “Laughter is the best medicine,” was right. (It also doesn’t leave a hangover like 21 shots of warm tequila does!)

My point is that sales teams work well and thrive when everybody is having fun. But you can only have fun in a safe environment, one that employs trust and caring. Fun doesn’t happen because you try to force it down someone’s throat. People relax, laugh and have fun when they trust you and know that you care and have their backs.

So, here’s where I get to the crowd-sourcing part. As I started drafting this blog I made a short Facebook post about incorporating fun into a sales organization and it kinda’ blew up!

It was the most active post I’ve seen in months!

I knew I had hit a chord with people. There were a ton of great comments and I want to share just a few of them with you. Here are a few excerpts from what you had to say about this subject.

Trust is earned through doing what is promised. Without an environment of trust, how can you have fun?”

“This is spot on Joe. Not just the trips, parties, awards functions, etc. Everyone has fun with those. It’s the fun atmosphere created day to day that’s the key to attracting and retaining good people.”

“I’ve always believed it’s a leaders job to create a culture of fun… Fun drives creativity, enthusiasm and loyalty. We spend far too much of our lives ‘making a living’ for it not to be fun.”

“I think that sometimes people are promoted based on the numbers they’ve hit, not because they would make great leaders. They get into the position and can teach people how to hit numbers, but they don’t know how to make it fun.”

“Fun starts from the top down. If leadership isn’t having fun, the team is afraid to have fun or there is a false sense of ‘fun’ that seems forced or fake.”

“Joe, what a great topic. I’ve been giving this some thought. It does start at the top creating a fun atmosphere that people want to be a part of. I remember one of my team members saying that he felt like he won the lottery every day when he walked into our office. It was fun, upbeat, positive and a winning culture. I look forward to reading what you write about this!”

“Fun + ethics + substance + consistency + accountability = a long term healthy culture.”

“I worked for someone who was absolutely NOT fun, but our team managed to not let that stop us! While I agree that sh*% rolls downhill, it’s still all about what we personally want to make it. That said, the best case scenario is leadership being on the same ‘fun’ page.”

“Fun occurs when people feel appreciated, respected and they are part of an enlightened environment. Fun happens when they are celebrated for thinking outside the box.”

So, going back to the beginning of my blog, when I think about how I should have answered that guy’s question, “How did you build all of that,” I guess I should’ve just told him to go read my Facebook wall. My Facebook friends in sales apparently know a little bit about having fun.

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