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The Wedge

Sales Culture

Earlier we looked at how selling is not a solo sport but a

contact sport. In the real world, you are out there competing

against other people and, even when there is no current

provider, you are usually competing against others

who want to win the same accounts you do.

Selling, within your own company, is best executed as

a team sport—where everyone on your sales force works

together to make sure that each individual has the benefit

of the varied strengths and knowledge of his or her colleagues

and, in turn, that your team gets the best out of

each individual.

The creation of The Wedge and the difference it was

making in the lives of individual salespeople led my associates

and me to wonder if this strategy could be integrated

into the corporate culture of a company. What if a business

could create and sustain a selling system based on The

Wedge that would enable it to continue to drive growth

with everyone on board?

For several years after refining the Wedge process, we

would go out into the field and conduct a two-day training

event with a client, showing its salespeople how to use The

Wedge. Six months later, we would call back to see how

things were going with the client.

“Three of our people really liked it, and are doing

great,” the client would say.

“And what about your other 15 reps?” we would ask.

“Well, change is hard,” the client would reply.

Along the way, we had developed two other programs. One of them, Red Hot Introductions, was a

process for getting your best clients to introduce you to

your top prospects. The other was the CRISP sales meeting

format I mentioned earlier in Chapter 2, a way of

making your sales meetings a catalyst for driving growth.

Up to this point, however, we had never really had a business

owner ready to take the full plunge—to take all of

the tools we had developed and put them together in a

company-wide program.

So we kept taking our clients’ money, hoping things

would get better. And one day they did.

Launching The Wedge Sales Culture

The late Douglas B. Owen was a senior vice president with

Summit Global Partners, a Dallas-based corporation that

today is one of the 25 largest insurance brokerage, risk

management, and benefits consulting firms in the country.

One day, Doug came out to see me at our offices outside

Dallas. He had a goal of creating a common sales culture

for Summit Global and its then 15 locations. It was the first

time I had had the right kind of conversation with someone

who wanted to expand his or her horizons and use the

Wedge strategy to develop a complete selling system for a

business. For the next six hours, the two of us put the

Wedge tools and programs into one consolidated format.

We mapped it out, talked through it, desktopped it, put together

a plan, and then edited the plan. By the time we finished,

Doug had a proposal for his CEO that he believed in as much as I did. He sold it, and Summit Global contracted

with us.

For the first time, we got the chance to work with an

entire organization, going beyond merely doing sales

training. We started with Summit Global’s executives,

getting a vision of where they wanted to take the company

and the growth they wanted to achieve. We knew

that if we could not get the top people focused, the program

wouldn’t be driven. Next, we trained the sales managers

on how to run sales meetings in a way that would

truly drive growth as an integral part of the corporate

culture of the company. We then worked with the salespeople,

training them in using their competitive advantage,

Summit Global’s proactive services, to create

differentiation and win accounts away from competitors.

We showed them how to use The Wedge Sales Call to

win more new business faster. We trained them in Red

Hot Introductions, showing them how to get their top

clients to introduce them to their most desirable

prospects. Finally, we followed up with a course for the

customer service people to get them on the same page

with everyone else.

Twelve months later, Doug was writing a memo to

his CEO, summarizing the results. He noted that a year

before he had contracted with The Wedge Group expecting

a 10:1 return on investment (ROI). Instead, he

noted, the ROI was 20:1. In one year, Summit Global

had gone from annual sales of around $50 million to a

new high of $97 million. The same group of people that

was there when we started had been able to nearly double

its sales in 12 months.

Until I saw Doug’s memo, I did not realize how well

Summit Global had been doing. I made a commitment the

day I saw his memo that this is the way we would always do

it, and we would call it The Wedge Sales Culture.

The other early adopter we worked with in implementing

The Wedge Sales Culture was Higginbotham &

Associates, an insurance brokerage headquartered in Fort

Worth, Texas. Rusty Reid, the president and CEO of Higginbotham,

had been with us as a flagship client. We had a

good relationship. Rusty was a believer in The Wedge, as

well as an enthusiastic, top-notch executive. Over a sevenyear

period, Higginbotham grew its sales from around $40

million to more than $270 million. It became one of the

nation’s 100 largest insurance brokerages, and in 2002 was

named Commercial Insurance Agency of the Year by the

National Underwriter Company.

One of the most powerful things about the Higginbotham

story is that the company has one of the highest

hit ratios for new salespeople in the industry. The producers

who come aboard at Higginbotham thrive on The

Wedge Sales Culture that is already in place when they arrive.

It shortens their learning curve, and gets them up to

speed much faster. Out of 23 new salespeople added to the

Higginbotham staff in the most recent five years, 22 have

stuck it out and are successful, reaching or exceeding their

sales goals.

The success of Higginbotham and Summit Global

confirmed for us that The Wedge is more than a selling

strategy for individual salespeople. It is the basis for a sales

culture that a company can create and sustain in order to

drive growth—a selling system that can be replicated for any business whose profitable growth depends on sales

and, especially, on getting its competition fired.

Creating The Wedge Sales

Culture for Your Company

If I were talking to your company about The Wedge Sales

Culture, I might share with you a story that a management

consultant I know likes to tell. It’s about General Dwight

D. Eisenhower at the time Ike took command of the Allied

forces in World War II. As the story goes, Ike took a piece

of string and laid it on the table. Pulling the string along

the table, he pointed out how the entire string glided

along, fully aligned and straight. Then he pushed the

string, which curled up and went nowhere. His goal was to

illustrate that an organization is successful when its people

are pulling together in a common direction, not when individuals

are pushing with no common vision.

At my home, we have horses. One of our largest is

Commander, and one of his stable mates is Ladybug, who

is smaller. If I hitched them together facing in opposite directions,

Commander would have a heck of a time dragging

Ladybug around. However, if I joined them as a team

and pointed them in the same direction, their horsepower

would increase dramatically.

It is the same way in business. If you work for a company,

you know what I am talking about. It can seem at

times as if you have two competing systems in place at the

office pulling in different directions. On the one hand, you

try to operate according to the rules of the marketplace.

These rules tell you to focus on high quality, low cost,

speed, and innovation. This is the formal policy of your

firm, and of many others. On the other hand, at work every

day you are part of an informal culture. Unlike the business

rules, the cultural rules are based on social factors, office

politics, and personalities. When these two systems are out

of whack, your best-laid plans go awry. If you are in a

commission-driven environment, the results can be downright

paralyzing at times. When everyone is not pulling in

the same direction, human foibles will come to the surface

in the form of personality clashes, turf battles, backstabbing,

and lack of confidence in management. These soft

factors soon show up in your hard numbers such as

turnover, profitability, and revenue. The point is that there

are many things not directly considered to be sales-related

that nevertheless can have a major impact on sales.

When people come together as an organization,

they need a common vision that unites them in the pursuit

of common goals. Each of them needs to feel as if he

or she is a stakeholder in the outcome of the group’s performance.

Without this unity, communications are ambiguous,

misunderstandings arise, performance suffers,

and sales falter.

The purpose of The Wedge Sales Culture is to create

and sustain alignment around a common vision, and to put

in place a selling system based on The Wedge that will

outlive employees who come and go. More than that, The

Wedge Sales Culture is designed to put a business on track

for turbocharged growth by incorporating the strategy

and tactics of The Wedge into everything it does. In short,

it is a way of doing business that your company can use to

make winning more predictable by getting your competition


Aligning the Four Groups of a Company

If your company is like most, you have four major categories

of personnel: (1) executives, (2) middle management

including sales management, (3) sales producers,

and (4) customer support staff. The first step in creating

The Wedge Sales Culture is to get these four groups into


Notre Dame football fans are familiar with the legendary

Four Horsemen who led them to the national

championship in 1925. Harry Stuhldreher, the quarterback,

was the executive on the field, a self-assured leader

who inspired his fellow players. Left halfback Jim Crowley

was a super middle manager, running cleverly with the ball

when Stuhldreher handed it off to him. Right halfback

Don Miller was a star producer, a major breakaway threat

when he got an opportunity. The fullback, Elmer Laden,

was a terrific support player who also shined on defense

with timely interceptions and in handling punting chores

when needed.

On their own, they were unlikely heroes. None of

them weighed more than 162 pounds, and none of them

stood more than six feet tall. Yet, when they worked together,

they became what some sports fans consider one of

the greatest backfields in college football history.

When your players are aligned, your company can do

extraordinary things as well. Your executives can inspire

and lead the way; your managers can make sure that productivity

is kept at a consistently high level; your producers

can thrive and bring in new business; and your customer

service people can make sure your clients are kept happy

and opportunities are not missed.

The Wedge Sales Culture is a game plan for achieving

this result—and it begins with giving everyone involved a

reason to care, an incentive to change.

The Five-Step Change Formula

Change in an organization begins with vision. It involves

taking action to become something in the future that you

are not today. Next, you need a strategy to achieve your vision,

a plan for reaching the goals you set. Third, you need

to convert that strategy into routines and habits that people

perform daily. After that, you need to reinforce success by

celebrating and rewarding accomplishment. Finally, you

need to maintain a cultural network, a shared pool of knowledge,

belief, and behavior that current employees can pass

along to new employees. A company that achieves all five

steps—vision, strategy, routines and habits, celebrating,

and cultural network—will have put a sales culture in place

that is far more likely to last.

When I am talking to executives and managers about

The Wedge Sales Culture, I often use the example of a

person on a diet to explain the challenge. If this does not

apply to you, then you have my congratulations and my

envy. Most of us, however, do need to think about calories.

Suppose, then, that you have decided to lose 20 pounds.

That is your vision. It is how you see yourself in the future.

You see you, 20 pounds lighter. To achieve your vision, you

need a strategy. So you decide to eat better, cutting back on

the wrong kinds of carbohydrates. You also decide to exercise.

Without time to commit to a gym, you buy a treadmill

and put it in your bedroom at home.

For eight weeks, everything is going great. You wake

up in the morning, and jog on your treadmill while watching

the news on CNN. You cut back on your carbs, and

you start to see the pounds come off. Then, however, you

go on a vacation that you and your spouse have been planning.

You sit on the beach, but you still manage to watch

what you eat and to run beside the surf now and then.

When you get back to the office, you have a “to do” list

waiting for you. While you catch up, you start to save a little

time by skipping the treadmill every now and then. You

get busier at the office and one day you grab a fast-food

lunch, telling yourself that you will not make a habit of it.

Before long, however, the treadmill sits on your floor unused,

your eating choices regress, and you step on the

scale one morning and find that you have gained back

most of those lost pounds. What happened? Your routine

died. That killed your strategy. And that, in turn, killed

your vision.

That is how most traditional sales training works. It is

why I tell my clients that most sales training is a waste of

money. It is akin to taking an obese person who works at an

ice cream parlor, sending that person to Jenny Craig, and

then putting the person right back at the ice cream parlor

again. If the environment has not changed, the people in

the environment are not likely to change, either. What is the solution? It is to change the environment, to create a

sales culture.


If I were speaking to your company, I would first ask you

to imagine where you want to be in three years. It has

surprised me to learn how many businesses do not set

specific growth goals beyond the current year, if at all.

What that often means is that their profitable growth, if

any, will be incremental.

Having specific goals expressed in dollar terms and extending

out at least three years is important for two reasons.

First, a three-year vision will be a benchmark against

which your company can measure its performance month

to month and quarter to quarter. Second, it will be a unifying

symbol that will focus everyone in your organization

on your common objective—a key step in maintaining

alignment among executives, managers, producers, and

support staff.

Why is buy-in by all four groups so important? There

is not a single individual employed by your company, fulltime

or part-time, who does not have some measurable impact

on your success. Therefore, your people will feel

ownership in your success to the degree their jobs are defined

as contributing to that success. Their buy-in will help

focus them on the aspects of their jobs that most directly

affect sales and growth, making them more sales-conscious

in the way they perform their duties.

All of this may seem elementary to you but, as mentioned,

you might be surprised to find out how many

businesses have no formal, announced growth goals as

their vision. Without such a vision your company may

not perish, but neither will it likely become a highgrowth



Once your company has embraced a three-year vision, I

would tell you that The Wedge Sales Culture demands a

strategy that is different from that used by your competitors,

who probably rely on traditional selling. In fact, I

would tell you that your competitors are going to become

a more central focus of your strategy than ever before. In

most markets today, especially in competitive services

markets, rapid growth requires taking accounts away

from those who currently have them as well as from competitors

aggressively seeking them. The strategy of The

Wedge Sales Culture is aimed at achieving two objectives:

(1) creating more opportunities for your salespeople to

use The Wedge to win those accounts and (2) involving

everyone in your organization in the pursuit and retention

of new business.

When your company and its salespeople decide to go

about the pursuit of new business more aggressively, your

foremost problem is time. There are just so many hours in

a day to get things done. This creates several challenges.

How can you make the most of your limited time to win

new accounts? What strategy can you put in place to maximize

and use your competitive advantage to achieve rapid

growth? Moreover, how many accounts of what size should

you be handling to increase your profit? Which accounts

should you overserve, leave to your customer service center

to handle, or consider discarding?

Our strategy to meet these challenges, incorporating

The Wedge, is called Million Dollar Producer. By now,

your business has decided how much growth it wants to

achieve in how many years. Growth goals, of course, vary

widely by industry. For example, for our property casualty

insurance agency clients, we looked at how they operate

and developed with many of them a goal of doubling their

book of business in three years with half as many accounts.

For another type of business, your three-year goal might

be to achieve a 30 percent gain in revenue ($30 million

added to $100 million) while increasing your number of

accounts by no more than 10 percent (5 accounts added to

50 accounts).

The Million Dollar Producer strategy requires your

company to do four things to accelerate your profitable

sales growth: (1) position your business for profitability and

growth, (2) leverage your clients for introductions to

prospects, (3) grow your client base using The Wedge, and

(4) track results on a scoreboard so you can analyze those results

and reinforce and reward achievement.


As we noted before, a fairly reliable rule of thumb for

many companies is that about 20 percent of your clients

account for 80 percent of your revenue. These are the 20

percent that you should be overserving. Every one of your

top clients should be on a written proactive services time

line. What about the 80 percent of your clients who produce

20 percent of your revenue? The top half of these

can probably be handled by your customer service staff or

outsourced to a customer service center. As for the bottom

40 percent of your clientele, your company needs to ask itself

if serving them is a business in which you want to remain.

There may be valid reasons for carrying them

(obviously, for example, this principle of discarding your

smallest accounts would not apply to retail businesses that

sell on volume), but as a general rule it puts a drag on your

performance—unless you are exceptional enough that you

handle every account profitably.


By overserving the top 20 percent of your clients, you in

effect will earn the right to ask them to introduce you to

top prospects whom they know personally. The clients

they can introduce you to are probably very desirable.

Birds of a feather flock together.

Your client base, especially the top 20 percent, is an

asset that too many salespeople never leverage. When I am

talking to groups of salespeople, I often ask them how

many times in the past 90 days they have asked one of their

best clients for an introduction to one of their best

prospects. Typically, in groups of 20 to 40 people, 3 of

every 20 will say that they have, and 17 will say that they

have not. It could be that the reluctant 17 are not overserving

their clients with a written proactive services time line

and, therefore, do not believe that they have earned the

right to ask. Whatever the reason, they are overlooking a

major opportunity staring them in the face. There is no

way into a sales call more powerful than a personal introduction.

I am certain that you already know this. I make

the point here because, in talking to salespeople around the

country, I find that this is still not being done routinely; so

let me digress briefly and talk about the program I mentioned

earlier, Red Hot Introductions.

Part of the pain of being a salesperson is that, as mentioned

before, you have just so much time. You would like to

use that time to make more money. It takes time to identify

and then get in to see the people you need to talk to. In

many cases, they do not want to see you. So the first question

is: How do you get to the person you need to see? Basically,

there are three ways to get in to see a prospect: (1) cold

calls, (2) referrals, and (3) personal introductions.

The second question is: What is the best way in? Each

of the three methods has its place and its success stories,

but there are differences in the time it takes for each

method to yield a qualified lead that you can go in and

close. Would you rather win a new account by making 100

cold calls, by getting 10 referrals, or by having someone

you know introduce you personally to a major prospect

that he or she knows?

When you make a cold call, you are starting from

scratch with your prospect. When you are referred to a

prospect by someone who knows both of you, you have

gained an audience, but for all you know your prospect is

simply doing the referrer a favor by seeing you. Imagine,

instead, that your prospect gets a phone call from a good

friend of his who says something like this:

“Hi, Dirk. This is Wayne. I just wanted to share a story

with you. Two years ago, I met this guy, Henry O’Toole. I

was looking for a good financial adviser, and he and I seemed to click. Since then, he has been outstanding. With

the market tanking, he grew my portfolio 25 percent. He

consistently sends me helpful tips and suggestions. Every

quarter he stops by personally and we go over strategy. Anyway,

Dirk, I started thinking . . . if Henry can do all this

for me, then why couldn’t he do the same thing for a few of

my closest friends? So that’s why I called. If you visit with

this guy, I’m telling you that you won’t regret it.”

Why do more salespeople not ask their clients and

others for personal introductions to prospects? In his popular

book Games People Play, psychiatrist Eric Berne describes

what he calls the “Yes But” game. Many people who

know that something is the best thing to do, Dr. Berne explains,

will come up with an excuse not to do it, and that

excuse usually is rooted in some unfounded fear.

In my firm’s own research on selling habits, we have

found the same thing. Many of the salespeople we interview

are playing the same kinds of head games. Do any of

these characters sound like you or like someone with

whom you work?

Mr. Professional: “I’d ask Jim to get me in to see the

guy, but I don’t want to look like I can’t do it


Ms. Contented: “I’m already making enough. Why

push it?”

Mr. Undeserving: “I’ve done my job for Linda, but

what’s so outstanding about my work that gives

me the right to ask her?”

Ms. Delay: “I don’t know the right time to ask. How do

I know when to bring it up? How long should I

have worked for a client before asking?”

Mr. Pessimist: “I’ve tried doing that before, but it

doesn’t work.”

Ms. Quid Pro Quo: “I could ask Lennie, but what’s in it

for him?”

Mr. Status Quo: “I know Carl would help, but I don’t

want to jeopardize a good relationship.”

Ms. Proud: “Yes, I can call Edgar, but I don’t want him

to think I need a handout to make enough.”

Mr. Humble: “Jack knows how well I’m doing. I’d ask

him, but I don’t want to look greedy.”

Ms. Inexperienced: “I’ve never done it before. How

would I?”

We also have found in our research that clients have

their own hang-ups about making personal introductions.

First, although their salesperson has solved a unique problem

for them, they cannot readily think of someone they

know who might need the same thing. Second, some

clients feel that their salesperson is a nice individual and

has done a good job, but not a truly exceptional job. They

do not want their friends to think they have introduced

them to someone who is run-of-the-mill. Third, while the

salesperson is considered trustworthy, he or she has not

gained the total trust and confidence of the client. The

client is not sure what the salesperson would do in a different


With mental blocks on both sides of the table, you obviously

need something to jump-start the process. When

you work for clients, what do they most favorably remember

about your service? What stands out in their minds?

What really triggers the pleasure centers of their brains

and gets their endorphins flowing? What excites them

about your work? Remember, getting the job done is not

exceptional. Neither is responding to client problems. Nor

is doing what your client asked you to do. What is it, then,

that turns your satisfied client into a passionate partisan?

As I discussed earlier, it is your proactive, extraordinary

service that makes the difference—the things you do without

being asked, anticipating your client’s future needs and

preventing problems before they arise.

The question then becomes: How do you get your

clients to agree to make Red Hot Introductions? Equally

important, how do get them to do it in a way that presents

you to prospects in the best light? We have a process that

we call The Six Steps to a Red Hot Introduction:

Let us say that you have decided to ask Paul, your

client of three years, to introduce you to prospects he

knows. You want to make sure that Paul calls them, and

that he introduces you to each of them in a way that will

make them want to see you. You have a meeting scheduled

with Paul tomorrow on another matter, so you decide

to do it then. Now it is time to go over the

conversation you will have with Paul tomorrow, the

six steps.

Step 1 will be to bring up the topic with Paul. During

a lull in your conversation, or as you have finished talking

about the other business at hand, you will have your chance

to change the subject. A story is a natural way to create this

transition. You can use a story to give Paul a valid reason

why you are asking for his help. Any one of three kinds of

stories will fit your purpose: (1) a personal story about

yourself, (2) a business story about yourself, or (3) a story

about the prospects you want.

A Personal Story. One valid reason for asking Paul for

help is money. Of course, some salespeople are uncomfortable

with this. As we discussed, you may have a concern

about appearing to be needy or greedy. In this

case, you can link the need for income to someone else.

For example:

“You know, Paul, my wife and I have three kids. We were

talking the other day about how we’re going to put them

through college. So I decided it’s time to step up the pace.

The kind of clients I’m looking for are . . .”

A Business Story. If you are uneasy talking about your

personal life, you can use a business story:

“Things in business have really changed, haven’t they,

Paul? Everybody’s trying to be more productive with

fewer people. It’s happened with us, too—pressure from

the top for each person to bring in more. So I was thinking

about the types of clients who make the most sense.

For example . . .”

A Third-Party Story. If you are not comfortable talking

about why you need the introduction, you can talk about the prospects whom you would like to help in the same way

that you helped Paul:

“It’s interesting, Paul, the more I’m in this business the

more I run into people who are in the same situation you

were in three years ago when we first talked. Not your competitors,

but other kinds of companies such as [A] and [B]. I

guess the firms we can most help would be . . .”

By using a story, you will give yourself the segue you

need. Then you can smoothly continue the conversation.

Paul will understand where you are coming from. Like

most people, he has a natural instinct to be helpful for the

right reason.

Step 2 will be to get Paul focused on the kinds of

prospects you most want. You know that he has contacts

with a lot of businesses, but you cannot expect him to do

your work for you by analyzing them and deciding which

ones are the best fit for you. Nor do you want to settle for

whatever companies are on the top of Paul’s mind—misfits

included. So you will help Paul by giving him your ideal

prospect profile:

“The companies I’m talking about would have annual sales

of, say, $50 million or higher. Their industry niche would

be [A], and they’d offer services like [B] and [C].”

At this point, Paul may tilt his head up and put his

hand on his chin, trying to come up with a few names. So

you will help him identify the companies.

Step 3, therefore, will be to describe your best-case

scenario to Paul—the type of business, its size or income, its

needs that you can meet, and any other factors that make it

an ideal match for you and what you offer. You can use this

profile to jog Paul’s memory, and get him thinking about

the people he knows whose businesses fit your description.

As Paul flips through his mental Rolodex, you can

start throwing out some names to be helpful:

“I was thinking, for example, Southeast Distributors and

Karamazov Brothers Wholesale. Do you know any folks at

either of these companies?”

Prior to seeing Paul, you already will have used your

ideal prospect profile to create your own Top 20 prospects

list. If you are going to leverage your relationship with Paul,

it only makes sense to start with the most desirable potential

clients. If you have memorized your Top 20 list, you can

keep throwing out examples until some of them hit. When

they do, you will be ready to pop the question to Paul.

Step 4 will be to ask for the call. And how did you get

in a position to ask Paul to pick up the phone and make the

call? You earned the right to ask, you motivated Paul to be

helpful, by giving him proactive, extraordinary service.

This laid the groundwork for your being able to leverage

your relationship with Paul. It will give him more confidence

that the prospects he calls will end up regarding his

call as a favor he did for them rather than as a favor they

did for him. So you will say to Paul:

“Paul, would you be willing to call Southeast? You know, tell

them what we’ve done for you, and see if they’d like to talk?” If the prospect is local, you can ask Paul to suggest

that you and the prospect meet for lunch. If the prospect is

out of town, Paul can pave the way for a phone call from

you. So you anticipate that Paul will be willing to make the

call. Done deal? Not yet.

Step 5 will be to coach Paul on what to say. You will ask:

“I’m just curious, Paul. What do you think is the best thing

to tell Southeast?”

Paul likely will reply that he intends to tell Southeast

what a great job you have done. After all, the CEO at

Southeast knows him, he will explain. But will this make the

CEO eager to see you? Likely not. So you will help Paul

help you, by tactfully prepping him on what to say—a message

that will differentiate you with specific, concrete words

that will fire up the CEO when Paul calls him. Remember

the ladder of abstraction we discussed earlier? Here is one

more instance where it increases your power of persuasion.

The more that you can help your clients visualize the concrete

details of your proactive service, the easier it will be

for them to communicate your strengths to others.

SODAR is an acronym for a five-step process that you

can use to jog Paul’s memory about what a great job you

have done, rehearse him to introduce you in the best possible

way, and make sure he calls and reports back to you on

the results. Here are the five steps of SODAR:

1. Situation.

“Remember your situation when we met, Paul?

The issues that made you consider working with us?”

2. Opportunity.

“How did you see us as an opportunity? I mean,

how did you think we could help you? Was it the

problem you had, and how we approached solving it?”

3. Decision.

“And when you made the decision to hire us, how

did you assess us? Is there one thing that really stands

out in your mind?”

4. Action.

“How has it gone since then? Did we take the

right action? Do you remember the specific steps we

took to improve things?”

5. Results.

“And what were the results? Did they affect the

bottom line? Productivity? Sales? Efficiency? Can

you quantify the difference it made, guesstimate a


Once you take Paul through SODAR, he can effectively

recommend you rather than merely refer you. He

can tell the CEO at Southeast a real story, not merely generalize

to him that you are a sharp person and maybe you

can do him some good.

Step 6 will be to make sure that Paul follows through.

While you want Paul to make the call sooner rather than

later, it might be counterproductive to push him. So you

give him the courtesy of choosing the time. You ask:

“When would be a good time to call you back, Paul, to hear

how it went?”

When Paul suggests that you call him next Tuesday,

you will have accomplished two things: (1) Paul will have

agreed to call before a specific deadline; and (2) he will

have given you the opportunity to follow up, to make

sure he made the call, and to hear the results. Before

Paul makes the call, you can send him a brief e-mail, expressing

your appreciation and reviewing the key points

that you brought out with SODAR. When you call Paul

back on Tuesday, he can fill you in on the call and pass

along any timely information he learned when he talked

to your prospect.

To this point, we have talked about how to position

your business for profitability and growth, and how to

leverage your clients for introductions to prospects. The

next part of the Million Dollar Producer strategy is to

grow your client base more rapidly using The Wedge.


As discussed in Chapter 2, there are three basic dimensions

of competition: price, product, and service. Most

companies do not have a strong competitive advantage

when it comes to price, product, and reactive service.

These days it is your company’s proactive service that can

make all the difference in winning new accounts. Your

proactive services platform gives you a strong story to tell

about your business; and it gives you the concrete, visual

examples you need to use The Wedge to get your competition

fired. In a very real sense, your proactive services

platform can drive your company’s growth. The question

is: Does your company have a strategy to ensure that you

are using this competitive advantage to drive growth? Do you have a system in place to make sure that every sales

call is as potent as it can be?

On hundreds of occasions in my career I have been

the outside party attending a company’s sales meeting. It

has always struck me how much time salespeople spend in

these rituals for little or no gain. You know what I am talking

about. I am sure you have sat impatiently through one

of these sessions as prospect lists are rehashed, personal

stories are told, unfocused opinions are muttered, and the

person presiding gives lip service at the close of the meeting

to everyone’s general resolve to get out there and win

more business.

It remains my view that the sales meeting is one of

the most underutilized resources for growth that a company

has. Yet, if done the right way, your sales meeting

can be a powerful catalyst for driving sales. I spoke earlier

about the CRISP (continuous and rapid improvement

sales process) sales meeting. As part of The Wedge

Sales Culture, the very purpose of the CRISP sales meeting

is to drive growth. For that reason, its agenda is

strictly limited to four topics: (1) how to get introductions

to specific prospects; (2) what specific new business

appointments have been set; (3) what specific proposals

have been submitted and are pending; and (4) what specific

deals have been closed and, therefore, are cause to


The CRISP sales meeting format requires that

everyone attending stay focused on new business, and

new business only. Instead of being passive listeners,

your producers and others attending can help each other

strategize how to use The Wedge for each new business

interview—developing specific Wedges to use, sharing

any intelligence they have on each specific prospect and

its decision makers, and otherwise contributing directly

to moving each deal forward in the selling process. This

is how your sales team and company can use sales meetings

to enhance your ability to break prospects’ relationships

with your competitors and grow faster.

Now that we have talked about positioning your business

for growth, leveraging your clients for introductions,

and growing your client base using The Wedge, let me go

over the fourth part of the Million Dollar Producer strategy:

keeping score.


Jack Welch was a remarkable leader during his days at

General Electric in creating a high-growth, high-profit

culture. One of the things he believed intensely was that

if you cannot measure it, you cannot control it. When

you track your company’s growth, there will be certain

numbers within your overall growth that it makes strategic

sense for you to keep an eye on. You know the types

of numbers I am talking about—the closing ratio for

your sales force and for each of your salespeople; your

average revenue per relationship; how many accounts

you are winning; what portion of your new business is

“new” new as opposed to cross-sold; and any other numbers

that bear on whether your growth is profitable, marginal,

or merely a wash in terms of your overall net

income. The point is that the more you know, the more

you can measure; the more you can measure, the more you can control; and the more you can control, the more

predictable you can make winning.

Let us assume that your company now has a vision, as well

as a strategy to achieve that vision. The third part of the

five-step change formula, routines and habits, is where the

rubber meets the road. Only by converting your strategy

into routines and habits that people perform daily can you

make things happen.

Routines and Habits

My four young daughters did not always regularly brush

their teeth without prompting from my wife and me. It

took repetition plus a little friendly encouragement before

they started doing it automatically. Most of us are open to

learning new things, but it takes even more motivation and

persistence to keep doing those things consistently until

they become habits and routines.

When your company has a vision of where it wants to

go and a strategy to get it there, the question becomes:

How are we going to implement this thing called The

Wedge Sales Culture? How are we going to get our people

to do what they need to do to make it work?

Your Sales Management Team

The structure of a typical company that we have been talking

about—executives, managers, salespeople, and service

staff—creates a nice organization chart. It tells you the bureaucratic

pecking order. It shows you who reports to

whom. It describes how your e-mail and paperwork are

routed and distributed. When you gaze at it, your company

looks like a well-organized machine. But does this chart really

show you how selling gets done? Does it show you

who will drive The Wedge Sales Culture until it becomes a

habit and a routine for people?

In the traditional business model, your sales managers

are the linchpins. They report to your executives,

and they mentor and direct your salespeople. They are

the lightning rods, getting more credit when things go

well and more blame when things go badly than they

probably deserve. When your company implements The

Wedge Sales Culture—when your executives, managers,

salespeople, and support staff have embraced your vision

and accepted the strategy—a different kind of sales management

team will emerge.

In working with companies that choose to create

The Wedge Sales Culture, I have found that four key

roles are vital in implementing it and making things happen.

The job titles of the people in these roles may vary,

but the roles—and the personality types that go with

them—are very similar from one company to the next.

Seldom will any of these four roles be exclusively vested

in one person. More commonly, several people will perform

each role, with one of them emerging as the most

frequent leader.

1. The culture creator. This is the person who keeps the

vision alive. Often, it is the owner or chief executive,

but it can be a vice president or someone else down

the line. During the Apollo XIII drama, for example,

it was the flight director, Gene Krantz, and not the

head of NASA, who stepped up and said, “Failure is

not an option.” The culture creator is the person who

personifies and promotes your sales culture, communicates

expectations, motivates the troops, rallies

everyone to the growth goals, and leads the way.

2. The coach/mentor. This person is all about helping

others. He or she is not into self-aggrandizement.

The coach/mentor encourages, counsels, and supports.

The person in this role listens carefully at

the CRISP sales meeting, and then follows up to

help your salespeople close the deals that were discussed.

The coach/mentor is like a third base coach

in baseball, telling players “You can do it!” as they

head for home.

3. The product manager. The person in this role discovers

what clients want, and responds with services and

products. He or she keeps a close watch on the marketplace,

what your company is offering, and how you

are delivering your service. On one day, you might

find the product manager working with your customer

support staff to build your proactive services

platform; and on another day, he or she will be shaping

your offering to take advantage of buying trends

and new opportunities. In many industries today, the

ability to niche market has become one of the most

dependable paths to growth, making this role even

more important. Internally, the product manager is

an integrator, getting everyone on the same page dayto-

day to ensure that you are making the most of your

competitive advantage.

4. The administrator. This person is a chronicler, numbers

person, and analyst. He or she tracks your

growth, gives progress reports, notes trends and warning

signs, and offers insights based on mastery of the

data. The administrator is a logical, detail-oriented

person, more like Mr. Spock than Captain Kirk

aboard your enterprise. He or she is the go-to person

for anyone who asks, “How are we doing?” The administrator

knows that you cannot chart a course

without knowing where you have been, where you are,

and where you are going.

This more informal sales management team, as opposed

to the official sales management team on your organization

chart, will be the driving force that keeps your

progress on track. The people in the four roles will be

major catalysts in converting your strategy into the routines

and habits that make profitable growth a part of

your marrow.

As mentioned earlier, The Wedge Sales Culture is

about driving growth with everyone on board. Most companies

currently have their executives and managers, and of

course their producers, involved directly in sales to one degree

or another. Many companies, however, make the mistake

of seeing sales and service as two distinct functions. As

a result, their customer support staff is not considered a

part of the sales team. Worse, some service reps have an

aversion to seeing themselves as salespeople at all. You

know the personality type I am talking about. You stick

your head in the door of your customer service center, and

you ask an account executive if a client might be interested in a new service you now offer. Rather than having the answer

or volunteering to call, the account exec says, “Why

don’t you ask them and see?”

Customer Service and Sales

Virtually all companies recognize that their salespeople are

service people. What they do not always fully appreciate is

that their service people are salespeople. As a result, they

never fully engage their service staff in selling. Moreover,

as we noted, many of their service people resist seeing

themselves in a sales role.

This is all the more ironic because, as we discussed

earlier, proactive customer service is your strongest competitive

advantage in winning accounts away from current

providers as well as in keeping your most desirable clients.

Your service staff should be emphatically welcomed

aboard as part of your sales team. They should be given

the training and tools they need to be able to more effectively

cross-sell current clients and retain your key accounts.

Our experience working with businesses has

shown us that this is a very doable objective. When

brought into the sales process in a way that motivates

them about their role, your service people can significantly

add to what your officially designated salespeople

bring in. When that happens, the partition between sales

and service comes down, and you truly begin driving

growth with everyone on board.

When you have a vision of where you are headed, a

strategy for getting there, and the routines and habits to

make it feasible, you have done three of the five things

you need to do to create a sales culture. The question then becomes: How do you reinforce and sustain your

new way of doing business over time? Moreover, how do

you ensure that your selling system is not disrupted as

employees come and go? This brings us to the last two

steps of the five-step change formula.


Imagine yourself standing on the tee box of a par three

hole, playing alone on a virtually empty golf course. You

hit your tee shot and it lands on the green, bounces twice,

and rolls into the cup. Your first hole in one! You turn to

tell somebody, and there is only silence. Nobody saw you

do it. How does that feel?

Earlier in this chapter, we talked about the soft factors

that can affect the hard numbers of business performance—

the psychology, politics, and social dealings that

come into play when you put people together in a group.

My firm in 2003–2004 conducted a survey of some of our

clients to study these soft factors. We selected a representative

sample of 26 firms, and we asked their personnel

to answer a series of questions related to how they

saw their job, their employer, their colleagues, and their

common mission. We then benchmarked the results

against the results of top-performing companies whose

personnel had taken a similar survey. Strikingly, the

greatest deviation from the ideal benchmark related to

how well, in the eyes of the employees we surveyed, their

management was rewarding and reinforcing their productivity.

It was not a matter of compensation and bonuses. As they saw it, the reinforcement that was lacking

could have been simple acknowledgment for a job

well done, a pat on the back more often, or some other

way of celebrating success.

The result was striking for two reasons. First, celebration

has been a basic instinct of people since our primitive

ancestors started raising their fists in the air after hitting a

wild boar with a rock from 50 feet away. Second, celebrating

success is such a huge part of human culture in general.

We are teeming with celebrations—the Oscars, the Emmys,

sports Halls of Fame, Nobel Prizes, Pulitzer Prizes,

best-dressed lists, baby’s first steps, birthdays, anniversaries,

and, yes, we even celebrate days of the week such as

thank God it’s Friday (TGIF).

It is all the more ironic, then, that so many companies

do not take advantage of this morale-boosting, teambonding

activity. I know this is an obvious point, but it

bears repeating as one of those easy-to-do things that a

busy company can overlook to its detriment.

Even when you are celebrating the achievement of an

individual, the occasion can be used to acknowledge and

reinforce good performance generally. When Hank Aaron

knocked his 715th home run out of the park, surpassing

Babe Ruth, a supporting cast of managers, coaches, players,

bat boys, and fans in the stands could each rightfully claim

a share of the honor. But for the roles of these people,

Aaron might have missed a homer here or there. There is

an old proverb that victory has a thousand fathers and defeat

is an orphan. It is a wise saying to keep in mind each

time your company wins.

Your Cultural Network

Thus far, we have been talking about your business and

its employees as if we were looking at a snapshot of your

current personnel frozen in time. In reality, people come

and go. According to the United States Bureau of Labor

Statistics, the average employee now makes four to six

career changes, and 12 to 15 job changes, before retiring.

Moreover, the job market today puts more of a premium

on flexibility, encouraging people to move around even if

they are happy where they are. The final step of the fivestep

change formula is to put a lasting cultural network

in place at your company that will be sustained as employees

come aboard, go elsewhere, or switch roles

within your organization.

Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary defines culture

as “the integrated pattern of human knowledge, belief, and

behavior that depends upon the capacity for learning and

transmitting knowledge to succeeding generations.” The

sales process and business performance can be a little fuzzy

in this regard. There are a lot of things people do intuitively

that do not get written down, let alone put into a

formal process. In his book, Boyd: The Fighter Pilot Who

Changed the Art of War, author Robert Coram described

the legendary exploits of the late John Boyd, an Air Force

colonel who took what had been seen as the “art” of air-toair

combat and codified it into a process that other pilots

could replicate and use.

That is one of the major benefits of creating a sales

culture. In its distilled form, The Wedge Sales Culture

consists of processes, tools, methods, and techniques that can be perpetuated and replicated. When that happens,

your company’s employees will find themselves sharing in a

common network based on a body of “knowledge, belief,

and behavior” that energizes discussions in the boardroom

as well as chitchats next to the watercooler. Moreover, your

company’s new employees will have a network in place to

tap into, shortening their learning curve as they grow into

productive participants in your sales culture.

With a vision, a strategy, routines and habits, celebrations,

and a cultural network in place, your company will

be readier than ever to win new business like a well-run

machine, adding and growing accounts as you get your

competition fired.