Use the Mackay Sales Scalpel to sharpen selling techniques

Everyone is in sales.  Why?  Because from the time we wake up until our heads hit the pillow at night, we are continually:  communicating, negotiating, persuading, influencing and selling ideas.

Do you want to nail the sale?  The tool I use is called the Mackay Sales Scalpel.  It’s my sure-fire way to sharpen and pinpoint every sales situation.

As I see it, expert selling demands five essentials:

  • Fire – the drive to strive.
  • Formulate – the art of planning.
  • Fascinate – the gift of sizzle.
  • Follow-up – the discipline to control.
  • Finalize – opening the door to maximum opportunity.

Let’s start with Fire.  You have to have fire.  You have to love the fight.  You have to know how to ignite it and to keep it lit.

When you love what you do, you will never have to work another day in your life.  In fact, the subtitle to one of my books reads:  “Do what you love.  Love what you do.  Deliver more than you promise.”  That’s the spirit of the salesperson’s creed.

When times are tough, it may not be your fault for being down.  But it is always your fault for not getting up.  You have to be a believer to be an achiever.  Only a fired-up, high-energy workplace ignites tomorrow’s ideas.  The job of sales management?  It’s to keep the fire roaring.

hoBut no amount of fire will take you anywhere without a plan.  People don’t plan to fail; they fail to plan.  That brings us to ingredient #2 of the Mackay Sales Scalpel:  Formulate.  You need to formulate a plan.

Central to your plan:  Figure out how you’ll demonstrate the product.  A salesperson tells, a good salesperson explains, and a great salesperson demonstrates.

Dawn Dishwashing liquid came up with a brilliant product demonstration.  Remember the catastrophic Gulf of Mexico oil spill of 2010?  Dawn went to work sprucing up oil-caked wild ducks and made them spanking clean using their product.  What could be more convincing?  Great salespeople are always on the lookout for potent proof of product effectiveness.  Dawn seized an unforgettable moment.

Statistics are at the heart of formulating your plan, starting with where you get the bulk of your business.  Can you identify the top 20 percent of your customers?  Most sales people are familiar with the 80/20 rule:  80 percent of your business comes from 20 percent of your customers.  Well, this trend is headed strongly for 90/10.   That gives you a great idea of how to prioritize your time.

The third essential of the Mackay Sales Scalpel is Fascinate.  Advertising pioneer David Ogilvy said no one ever sold anyone anything by boring them to death.  There’s not a lot of difference between showmanship and salesmanship.  Mostly, you have to be likable, pleasant and listen well.  In our cold and unfriendly world, it can be fascinating to meet up with a genuine, honest and attentive person.  I have never known anyone to buy from someone they don’t like.

Want to fascinate people?  Start by smiling and listening.  Oh yes, there’s one other thing to keep in mind, but you probably know that already:  The sweetest sound in the English language is the sound of your name on someone else’s lips.

That brings us to the fourth element of the Mackay Sales Scalpel:  Follow-through.

Why is follow-through so important?  Selling is easy, but only if you work hard at it.  You have to do the details – relentlessly.

Few things drive repeat sales more than expert customer service.  No customer service, and pretty soon, no business.

In customer service, nothing counts like honoring commitments and meeting deadlines.  In sales, you have to nail the exact practices beforehand with manufacturing, IT, distribution, finance and other pertinent departments.

The key is to latch onto your customers and hold them fast.  Don’t just meet their needs.  Anticipate them.  Don’t wait for them to tell you there’s a problem.  Go out and ask them if there is a problem.

Now we come to Finalize—the fifth and final edge of the Mackay Sales Scalpel.  It’s all about closing.

The close is only the very last stage of the process.  You’ll never close effectively without mastering the whole process of negotiating first.  Find ways for both sides to legitimately win.  At any close, the super salesperson is already thinking about the service needed to support the deal or the referrals that a satisfied customer is bound to deliver.


Mackay’s Moral:  The sale begins when the customer says yes.

Foster respect to improve results

One of my favorite old comedians, the late Rodney Dangerfield, was famous for his line, “I get no respect.”  Then he would usually add a line like, “I remember when I was a kid and played hide-and- seek.  The other kids wouldn’t even look for me.”

If you want those who work with you to respect you more, try this simple tactic.  Ask their opinions, and really listen to what they have to say.  When done well, this is a powerful workplace practice that produces tremendously positive outcomes.  Then take action from what you learn.  Employees will feel validated, and you will become someone who employees will flock to.

Example:  Jack, a manager, is talking to Judy, an employee who works for him.  He asks her what she thinks of a new company policy.  Judy answers with a thoughtful opinion.  But as she is telling Jack what she thinks, Jack sees his boss walk by.  Jack wants to ask his boss something important, and his mind focuses on that instead of on what Judy is saying.

Judy sees that Jack is no longer making eye contact or listening to her – even though he solicited her opinion.  She stops mid-sentence.  Jack is so lost in thinking about his question to his boss that he doesn’t even notice that Judy has stopped talking for a few seconds.

Embarrassed that he has been caught being inattentive, Jack tries to cover up the fact that he wasn’t listening.  Judy politely skims over the incident and says she needs to get back to work.  Later, Jack overhears Judy telling a co-worker about the incident.  “What a jerk,” she says.  “He asked me for my opinion like he cared.  And I was dumb enough to think he did.”

Jack flinched at her words.  He knew he appeared not to care even though he wanted to hear her ideas.  He realized that he had damaged his relationship with an employee.  He knew that he had to make an effort to be a better listener in the future, and vowed to repair the damage over time.  He also knew that he had learned one of the most valuable lessons a manager can learn:  That listening to what his employees have to say is a priority and should be treated as one.

Of course, when I think about respect Aretha Franklin immediately comes to mind.  Her blockbuster hit “R-E-S-P-E-C-T” is timeless.  As the lyrics advise, find out what respect means to employees.


Half of all American employees think they’re not treated with respect by their employers or managers, according to  When this happens, employees tend to lose respect for their bosses and don’t trust them.  They also become resentful, less motivated and no longer committed to their employers.

To minimize this problem, treating people with respect has to begin at the top of an organization.  If senior managers treat each other and their subordinates with respect, this sets the stage for respect among all employees.

Employee suggestions should be acted upon, rather than just ignored or ridiculed.  Simply asking for input will gain some employee respect, but acting upon good suggestions is an imperative.  Employees must also be given credit for the idea.

Allowing for scheduling flexibility gives employees the idea that their employers respect them enough to let them get their work done according to their own schedule.  Letting them come in late or leave early on occasion is a strong way of showing respect and trust.

Making employees aware of the financial condition of the company and the reasons for various decisions also lets them know the company trusts them.  If cost-cutting is necessary, solicit ideas from them.  Inviting their input demonstrates respect for their opinions.  An added bonus is that the people in the trenches have a unique and valuable perspective.

Investing in employee training and career development is an investment in the employees themselves.  They will respect the company that provides it.

Providing immediate and positive feedback should be used at all times, not just the annual office party where it typically seems forced.  If your employees do good work, commend or compliment them to encourage their behavior and gain their respect.

As you work to reach your goals, remember that others also have goals and are also working hard.  Respect people for what they are and for what they stand for – even if you don’t agree.


Mackay’s Moral:  Be respectful or be regretful.

Business lessons from George Washington

As a history major, I am intrigued by the origins of our great country.  George Washington is a logical place to start.

This week we celebrate his birthday with Abraham Lincoln’s as Presidents Day – the third Monday in February.

But what do we really know about this founding father who led our country through the Revolutionary War?

The New York Times wrote:  By comparing textbooks used in the 1960s with those of today, researchers at Mount Vernon, Washington’s home in Virginia, have concluded that Washington now occupies just 10 percent of the space he had then.

A recent study by the American Council of Trustees and Alumni [for Mount Vernon] found that just 42 percent could name Washington as the man who was called “first in
war, first in peace and first in the hearts of his countrymen.”

Some of the business lessons that Washington espoused are still relevant today.  He was the definition of a pragmatist.  He was very practical and had a straightforward, matter-of-fact approach.  He was always focused on reaching a goal.

Washington was not your typical politician.  He believed in brevity.  His second inaugural address was only 134 words.

He was incredibly smart and shrewd.  As commander in chief of the American forces, Washington refused a regular salary and worked for expenses only.  He came out thousands of dollars ahead.  When offered the U.S. Presidency, he volunteered to work for expenses again – but this time Congress insisted he have a fixed salary.



Among his writings was this advice to his nephew, Bushrod Washington, January 15, 1783:  “Be courteous to all, but intimate with few; and let those few be well tried before you give them your confidence.  True friendship is a plant of slow growth, and must undergo and withstand the shocks of adversity before it is entitled to the appellation.  Let your heart feel for the afflictions and distress of every one, and let your hand give in proportion to your purse, remembering always the estimation of the widow’s mite, that it is not everyone that asketh that deserveth charity; all, however, are worthy of the inquiry, or the deserving may suffer.”

And to General William Woodford, he wrote:  “. . . be strict in your discipline; that is, to require nothing unreasonable of your officers and men, but see that whatever is required be punctually complied with.  Reward and punish every man according to his merit, without partiality or prejudice; hear his complaints, if well founded, redress them; if otherwise, discourage them, in order to prevent frivolous ones.  Discourage vice in every shape, and impress upon the mind of every man, from the first to the lowest, the importance of the cause, and what it is they are contending for.”

When he died, Washington provided in his will for the emancipation of his slaves upon the death of Martha, his wife.  Washington was the only member of the Virginia dynasty to free all of his slaves.

His leadership lessons are worth noting also.

In 1787 a resolution was introduced into the Constitutional Convention to limit the size of the Continental Army to 10,000 men.  The resolution seemed well on its way to passage until Washington was heard to say, “A very good idea.  Let us also limit by law, the size of any invading force to 3,000 men.”  The resolution was quickly defeated.

One reason the U.S. Congress has two houses is the following conversation between Washington and Thomas Jefferson.  Jefferson, who did not attend the Constitutional Convention, was not happy with the proposed bi-cameral system for the legislative branch of the new government.  During a visit to Washington at his home, Jefferson argued for the French uni-cameral system, one legislative house.

After much discussion around the tea table, Washington turned sharply to Jefferson and said, “You, sir, have just demonstrated by your own hand the superior excellence of the bi-cameral system.”

“How is that?” asked Jefferson.

“You just poured your tea from your cup into its saucer to cool.  In the same manner, we want the bi-cameral system to cool things.  A measure originates in one house, and in heat is passed.  The other house will serve as a wonderful cooler, and by the time it is debated and modified by various amendments, it is much more likely to become an equitable law.  No, we can’t get along without the saucer in our system.”


Mackay’s Moral:  I cannot tell a lie – pay attention to George Washington’s business smarts.

Listen up if you want to be successful

Two friends were walking down a busy street one evening when one paused and said, “Listen to those crickets chirping.”

“What crickets?” said the other man.  “I don’t hear any crickets.  Hey, you!”  He waved down a woman passing by.  “Do you hear crickets around here?”

“No,” the woman said, and went on her way.

The first man closed his eyes for a moment, then walked to a mailbox on a nearby lawn, reached down, and picked a cricket up from the grass.

“That’s amazing!” said his friend.  “How did you hear that?”

“Watch,” the first man said.

He dug into his pocket for a handful of change and tossed some coins onto the sidewalk.  Immediately the door of the house opened, a car stopped, and two passersby stopped to look for the coins.

The first man shrugged.  “It all depends on what you’re listening for.”

listeningWe were born with two ears but only one mouth.  Some people say that’s because we should spend twice as much time listening as talking.  Others claim it’s because listening is twice as difficult as talking.

Whatever the reason, developing good listening skills is critical to success.  There is a difference between hearing and listening.  Pay attention!  Your next job/account/paycheck may depend on it.

These statistics, from the International Listening Association website, really drive home the importance of listening.  At the same time, they demonstrate how difficult listening can be:

  • 85 percent of our learning is derived from listening.
  • Listeners are distracted, forgetful and preoccupied 75 percent of the time.
  • Most listeners only recall 50 percent of what they have heard immediately after hearing someone say it.
  • People spend 45 percent of their waking time listening.
  • Most people only remember about 20 percent of what they hear over time.
  • People listen at about 125 to 250 words per minute but think at about 1,000 to 3,000 words per minute.
  • There have been at least 35 business studies indicating listening as a top skill needed for success.

In addition, there are a number of behaviors to avoid if you want to be a really good listener: interrupting, avoiding eye contact, rushing the speaker and letting your attention wander.  Don’t rush ahead and finish the speaker’s thoughts, because you might take them in the wrong direction.  Arguing, as with a “yes, but” response, indicates that you were more interested in getting your own point across than listening to theirs.   Trying to top the speaker’s story doesn’t win you any points either.

Listening can be hard work, and some people are more challenging to listen to than others, but when you find yourself tuning out what someone is saying you should ask yourself why.

If you want people to listen to what you’re saying, make sure they feel like you have listened to them.  When we feel we are being listened to, it makes us feel like we are being taken seriously and what we say really matters.

In his book, “The 8th Habit,” management guru Stephen Covey tells a true story about the importance of asking other people their opinions.

Covey says W. “Bill” Marriott, chairman and CEO of Marriott International, the world’s largest hotel chain, described to him “the biggest lesson I have learned through the years.”

“It is,” said Marriott, “to listen to your people.  I find that if you have senior managers who really gather their people around them, get their ideas and listen to their input, you make a lot better decisions.”

Marriott said he learned this lesson from an encounter with President Dwight Eisenhower when Marriott was a young Ensign in the Navy.

“I had been in the navy for six months and had come home from the Supply Corps School for Christmas.  U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Ezra Taft Benson came down to our farm with President Eisenhower.”

Marriott said it was extremely cold outside but that his father had put up targets outside for shooting.  He asked the President if he wanted to go outside and shoot or stay by the fire.

“He just turned to me,” said Marriott, “and said, ‘What do you think, Ensign?”

Marriott said he told the President it was too cold outside for shooting and to stay inside by the fire, which he did.

Marriott said that lesson, asking and listening to someone else’s opinion, has stayed with him and has been a big asset in his business.


Mackay’s Moral:  It’s amazing what you’ll hear if you just listen

Don’t let success breed complacency

Looking back on his extraordinary career of 35 years, NASCAR driving legend Richard Petty noted that during his first 20 years of racing, he had an excellent record of winning.  For example, he won the Daytona 500 seven times!

However, in the late 1970s, his career went into a decline from which it never recovered.  Other racing teams had gone high-tech, refining their cars with ever-more sophisticated engineering, while the Petty team was complacent and set in its ways.

“We’d be winning steadily for 20 years and decided we wouldn’t change,” Petty said.

harveyBryceRichard Petty, one of the greatest drivers in racing history, ended his career without a win in his last eight years.

Lesson learned:  Resistance to change and complacency can defeat any person or organization, no matter how talented.

Success is sweet, but it can quickly sour if the ingredients aren’t fresh.  I’ve seen plenty of businesses, large and small, rest on their laurels only to be lulled into a coma.  On the one hand, it’s tempting to go along with the tried and true – if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

But that’s an adage that needs to be tested constantly.  Times change, tastes change, technology changes.  People change.  And aren’t we all dependent on people for our business?

“Success is a lousy teacher.  It seduces smart people into thinking they can’t lose,” said Bill Gates.  That’s why success can be a breeding ground for complacency.  People and organizations become content, satisfied and comfortable – too comfortable – in the way they do things.  In short, things are going well and they don’t think there is a need to change.

First lady Eleanor Roosevelt said something similar:  “More people are ruined by victory, I imagine, than by defeat.”

Complacency is like a silent killer because it can happen to everyone.  It doesn’t matter how large or small the company or individual.  We have all battled complacency at some point.  The real trick is not to let it hang around for long.

“I often think we should have a Director of Corporate Insecurity because complacency is the Achilles heel of most companies,” said Sir John Bond, former chairman of HSBC Holdings.  “As my Chinese friends remind me, today you’re a cockerel (chicken), tomorrow you’re a feather duster.”

Norman Augustine, former chairman of Lockheed Martin Corp., told a story about one of his company’s electronics facilities in Orlando, where “complacency started to infect one of our manufacturing processes.”

He said:  “Occasionally, parts were omitted from component kits prepared for assembly and inspection at another factory.  Each missing part disrupted the assembly process and frustrated the workers assembling the products.  I borrowed an idea from an automobile dealer in Dallas I had heard about.  The dealer received few complaints from customers because he gave them the home telephone numbers of the mechanics who worked on their cars.  I arranged for workers to include their names, work phone numbers, and self-addressed postcards in the kits they prepared.  Complaints dropped precipitously.”

All these examples describe corporate complacency.  But the problem also hits individuals.  In this job climate, sometimes it feels safer to stay put, even when your job or company isn’t meeting your goals or needs.  While security is a good thing, you also have to consider what it’s doing to your future.

Is your career on the right track?  Is it progressing as you planned?  If you’ve been in the same place for a while, think about these items:

  • Contentment.  The most important consideration when making career judgments is whether you’re happy.  Do you find your job satisfying?  Have you created a reasonable work/life balance?  If you feel good about going to work each day, you’ve probably found your niche.
  • Development.  Have you kept up your professional skills and credentials?  Does your position allow you the opportunity to grow and to capitalize on your strengths?  Being content isn’t sufficient reason to let your skills stagnate.  You should continue striving to enhance your marketability.
  • Environment.  Are you in a stable organization that will serve your needs well for the foreseeable future?  If your company is experiencing a dip in sales or market share, you should consider how those losses might affect your position in the coming months.

It’s fine to be comfortable.  It’s great to be content.  But when those translate to being complacent, it’s time to take stock – before your stock is worthless.


Mackay’s Moral:  When on the ladder of success, don’t step back to admire your work.