Sales Management

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Trump’s Transactional Trap

Monday, 06 March 2017 13:02
6 03, 2017

Trump’s Transactional Trap


In the New Yorker last year, Tony Schwartz the ghostwriter for Donald J Trump’s book, The Art of the Deal said:

‘He lied strategically’

‘I put lipstick on a pig’

Rather than inviting more infighting than a Taiwanese parliament, let’s focus on the negotiation trap inherent in Trump’s behaviour.

Whether you’re for or against him, Trump’s negotiation tactics are more obvious than a bogey hanging out of your left nostril on a video conference call.

·  Huge ambit opening positions – if he wants $2.50, he asks for $1 Billion

·  Flattery – ‘You’re a good guy, a great guy, the best’

·  Bluster – ‘This is going to happen my way, it always does…believe me’

·  Anger (Feigned or real) ‘This deal is so bad, so wrong, you’re making me really mad’

·  Insult and intimidation ‘You’re a loser, you’re crooked, you are going down big time’

These tactics may or may not have worked but it’s fair to say that at best, they are transactional.

A deal can be done using these tactics as long as there is no genuine need for an ongoing relationship. The winner takes it all, the loser’s standing small. (Sorry, too much ABBA in adolescence)

Interestingly, a lot of people have asked me if I think Trump’s tactics are useful for them.

My short response is ‘If you plan on renewing that client, getting referrals or being treated as a trusted advisor for a while, then probably not’.

However, when I ask them if they’ve been subjected to these and other tactics from clients including senior managers and Procurement, they say ‘All the bloody time’.

Many sales managers and sales people are aware of these tactics being used against them, yet are so keen to get the deal that they succumb, subjecting their company to poor margins, ridiculous stress to meet deliverables and a culture of subservience.

Here’s what you can do to address the key tactics in Trump’s playlist:

Huge ambit opening positions: Plan your own positions, especially your walk away. Politely refuse to discuss offers outside that range. Get back to discussing what the client is trying to achieve

Flattery: Ring your bestie, your mum or ask your dog if he loves you mid lick. You don’t need approval and validation from clients.

Bluster: Ignore or say ‘thanks for sharing that, so let’s look more closely at the issues on the table’

Anger: Keep asking questions like “Why is this so bad? Why do you want to still pursue this then? What would you like to do from here? (my personal favourite)

Insult and intimidation: See Anger, or coolly refuse to continue until the behaviour stops.

Unless you don’t care whether your client gets a great result or not, transactional negotiation styles won’t work very well.

Equally, whether they are the President of the United States or the Chief Procurement Officer, you should build a skillful tactical wall and get them to pay for it.

Elliot Epstein is a leading Pitch Consultant, Keynote Speaker, Corporate Sales, Negotiation and Presentation trainer who gets sales results rapidly. He has coached and trained high profile corporates globally in presenting, selling, negotiating and pitching. He has spoken at over 1500 conferences and workshops for leading companies such as HP, SEEK, Avaya, Hitachi , Asciano, Samsung and Lend Lease

He is internationally renowned for ensuring sessions are engaging, interactive and relevant to winning business in competitive markets.

Elliot is based in Melbourne where he lives with his wife and two negotiators.

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Published in   Executive Level Selling, Negotiation, Sales Management

22 02, 2016

Is Your Manager Donald, Hillary, Bernie, Marco or Ted?


Your manager is running for US President right now.

Without political preference, prejudice or bias of any kind whatsoever, let’s take a look at your manager’s key attributes and see how they lead a sales team.


The Donald is the greatest deal-maker, sales guy, rainmaker that has ever lived in human history.

Just ask him.

He drives the team by the sheer force of his blustering personality. His only affliction is conjunctivitis – an eye disorder because every sentence starts with I. ‘I did this, I was great at that, I blew them away’

He doesn’t let facts get in the way of a bad story, let alone a good one and his successes are ‘Yuge’ (according to his LinkedIn profile).

Donald wants to build a wall between sales and marketing/operations/engineering and in fact, the rest of the entire organisation because they’re just losers who prevent deals from being done.

He constantly reminds the team that all competitors are idiots with lousy products and blames everyone but himself if a deal is lost.

(Also see Disdainful Squint)


Hillary is married to the former CEO who left after allegedly not watching all the Sexual Harassment videos supplied by HR.

She is very experienced both in managing domestic and global deals and in administration.

However, her female staff under 30 mostly dismiss her approach and tend to form their own views on how to win, rather than follow Hillary’s often uninspiring speeches about how clients should behave.

Hillary seems very concerned about her own image, rather than that of her clients. Her sales people are reluctant to take her out on calls because of that disconnect and her love of flat MBA style presentations banging on about how great her company is.

(Also see Entitlement)


Bernie was a sales manager in a remote region for decades and rarely even turned up to join in the festivities at President’s Club (no pun intended).

He believes sales people are paid too much and wants to share the accounts and commissions across the entire team, especially the newbies as it seems fairer.

He is about to introduce House Accounts where Account Directors maintain a quota for an account but all commissions go into a pool for Bernie to distribute at the end of the financial year including to sales support, inside sales, the receptionist and the outsourced cleaning company who cleaned the bins of the sales people every night.

(Also see Idealism)


Marco worked his way up from an Inside Sales rep role to being a young, upcoming manager.

Good looks and charm have won him over 5000 LinkedIn contacts but he’s only ever won a small deal in his own state.

He has no national or global account experience and hopes the team isn’t able to recognise this when he presents his weekly Work In Progress meeting.

When asked his opinions on how to creatively win new business, he tends to repeat himself.

(Also see Big Fish, Small Pond)


Ted read one book on sales in 1968 and has followed its teaching to the letter ever since.

He demands every sales person has an agenda for the meeting, follows the 7 step process regardless of the client’s needs and insists on the CRM being updated every 9 minutes.

He also has a bedside copy of Dale Carnegie’s “How to Win Friends and Influence People’ written in 1936 which he views as a beacon of modern 20th century thinking.

(Also listen to ‘My Way’ by Frank Sinatra)

Apologies to Jeb who has since retired to run a weekend bed and breakfast with his brother.

Wish your manager good luck. We’re all counting on him/her. (See Airplane/Flying High)

Elliot Epstein is CEO of Salient Communication and is a sought after keynote speaker, pitch consultant and corporate sales coach who gets sales results rapidly. He has coached and trained high profile corporates globally in presenting, selling, negotiating and pitching. 

He is internationally renowned for coaching leaders, sales professionals and subject matter experts to win high stakes deals.

Elliot is based in Melbourne, Victoria and is not entitled to vote outside Australia.


Published in   Blog, Executive Level Selling, Sales Management

Get Inside Your New Sales Person’s Head

Saturday, 01 March 2014 07:23
1 03, 2014

Get Inside Your New Sales Person’s Head


At the start of the football season everyone looks at the new recruits and gets excited. “Oh, Wow!, Rufus McDufus should be great for us this year, especially in attack’ .

After two months of watching matches and paying $9.50 for a bucket of soggy chips each time, we soon realise Rufus is about as productive as a G20 Summit.

He’s a dud and we can’t imagine what the coach and recruiting team saw in him in the first place.

How many times has that happened in hiring sales people? Too many to count, right?

CVs are well written and the referees for their consistent 140% over-achievement of quota check out and they look and sound great at interview, not to mention their LinkedIn profile has recommendations and well documented history.

Remember these are SALES people, selling their favourite product of all time.

There are some really good recruiters out there who will put in the hard yards to really test their suitability, background and character and then again there are also ‘throw it at the wall and see what sticks’ guys who toss names into your Inbox faster than Usain Bolt runs to the bathroom with diarrhoea.

Perhaps that’s why they’re called tossers.

So, we have come up with a solution to give you the ‘inside story’ on potential sales hires before you spend your salary cap on the wrong player.

Based on the acclaimed Birkman International Assessment tool, we have added 25 years of sales coaching experience to give you a full profile of what makes your candidate tick, rationally, emotionally and politically.

We tell you:

  • What they REALLY like doing in sales as opposed to what they tell you they do
  • What stresses them out and what makes them relaxed enough to sell competently
  • What kind of relationships do they build
  • What are their emotional foibles that might prevent them from achieving success
  • How do they really want to be managed, led and rewarded
  • How are they going to fit in to your culture and your team.
  • Any inconsistencies between our assessment and what you saw at interview

….and the best part is you get a Sales Manager’s How to Coach Guide that specifically targets how to get the most out of that specific person before Day 1.

There are over  1.42M results for psychometric profiling on Google which have been done for years, but in our view, unless you add real world sales coaching/development knowledge, they’re just bits of paper for the HR file.

The results of the Salient Sales Assessment Tool have been outstanding in better selection, retention, role suitability and most importantly knowing how to manage and coach each individual in the critical early stages of them joining your company.

If you’d like to book an assessment or find out more about how to ‘get inside their heads’ to help you hire the right people, drop us a line at or

As Jim Collins of Good to Great fame saidI would have one priority above all others: to acquire as many of the best people as I could [because] the single biggest constraint on the success of my organization is the ability to get and to hang on to enough of the right people.” 


As CEO of Salient Communication, Elliot is a sought after keynote speaker and corporate trainer who has coached and trained over 4000 people including CEOs, senior management and successful sales teams throughout Australasia and Asia including Hong Kong and Singapore.


Elliot is a specialist sales speaker for high profile corporates having spoken at over 1500 conferences, workshops and break-out sessions on presenting, selling, negotiating and pitching for leading companies such as HP, SEEK, Avaya, Hitachi , Computershare and CUB . He is renowned for ensuring sessions are engaging, interactive and relevant to winning business in competitive markets.


Elliot is based in Melbourne where he lives with his wife and two expensive children.

Published in   Sales Management

I Know We Shouldn’t But It’s End Of Quarter

Friday, 01 November 2013 03:15
1 11, 2013

I Know We Shouldn’t But It’s End Of Quarter


Recently, two very interesting things happened.

I posted a short LinkedIn question ‘If you were selling your house on Sunday, you wouldn’t just drop the price 20% because the buyer asked you to. So, why would you do it at work on Monday?’

The response from experienced professionals and sales leaders was unanimous: ‘END OF QUARTER’

Two weeks later I hosted a panel of sales experts and sales leaders at Centre for Sales Excellence 2013 and discussed the same topic.

After a two day conference where everyone was filled with the joys of strategy, enthusiasm for coaching the right sales behaviours, consummate sales visions and case studies, the elephant in the room became an entire zoo when asked if people would stay the course if poor end of quarter figures were looming.

There was more shifting in seats than a flatulence convention followed by ‘It depends’, ‘Ya still gotta get the number’ and the wonderfully ambivalent analogy ‘ If I’m giving up smoking and I relapse by having one or two, then it doesn’t mean I’m not still giving up smoking’

Er…doesn’t that ‘relapse’ matter if you’re the leader that’s been telling people to give up smoking for months?

Don’t you love self righteous justifications?

So, let’s look at the most common behaviours that take place at end of quarter and their impact.

Putting on Brown Pants

’I forecasted X to APAC and we’re 22% down. Where’s my magic discount calculator? That’s right – hidden under that new Leadership book I bought at the airport. Hey…All hands on deck. Tell anyone who has ever spelled our company name correctly that they can have the same widgets for 20% less if they order by Wednesday.’


Please Mr. Customer…I’ll be your best friend, mow your lawn for a week and give you back rubs every Friday afternoon if you’ll sign the PO in the next 2.4 seconds

The Hairdryer

Gathering up the sales team and delivering a blistering verbal attack on their appalling inability to do what you hired them to do.

The worst case of this was a CEO who came down near the end of December and called the entire sales team ‘Two Star Parasites’ True Story.

He then wished everyone Merry Christmas.


Financial Fudgery.

Playing jiggery- pokery with the system, quotas, inventory, invoices, commissions or whatever else will make it look good.

Whatever it takes

Got an indirect channel strategy – f*ck it, let’s go direct. Agreed minimum margins become a polite suggestion. Start invading sales territories like the Taliban on methamphetamines.

You might say ‘Hey, this is the real world, mate and it has to be done this way’

At least consider the major impacts on your business:

1. Train your clients to expect discounts quarterly and they will wait and salivate like Pavlov’s Dog dragging your revenue and margins down into the doggie bowl for a long time.

2. Beg your customer and in many cases you will lose trusted advisor status and commoditise yourself as ‘just another supplier’.

3. Attack and blame the sales team and reflect on your staff retention numbers in 12 months time when the head hunters find out.

4. Someone with a personality disorder who wears thick glasses and cardigans in Global Operations will find your fudgery eventually.

5. Break the rules, destroy the strategy and throw sales behavioural change out the window for expediency and watch a confused, dispirited bunch of people at the coffee shop talking incessantly about sales transformation not being taken seriously.

The real world is not perfect and reasonable compromises that are extremely well communicated can still be made.

However, if you’re serious about growth, client trust, developing truly professional sales strategies and people, then it takes leadership.

As Warren Bennis famously said ‘Managers do things right. Leaders do the right thing’ Even at End of Quarter.

CEO of Salient Communication, Elliot is a sought after keynote speaker and corporate trainer who has coached and trained over 4000 people including CEOs, senior management and successful sales teams throughout Australasia and Asia including Hong Kong and Singapore.

Elliot is a specialist sales speaker and trainer for high profile corporates having spoken at over 1500 conferences, workshops and break-out sessions on presenting, selling, negotiating and pitching for leading companies such as HP, Avaya, Commonwealth Bank, Hitachi, Computershare, CUB and SEEK. He is renowned for ensuring presentations are engaging, interactive and relevant to winning business in competitive markets.


Elliot is based in Melbourne where he lives with his wife and two expensive children.

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Published in   Sales Management

Playing to Win

Wednesday, 13 March 2013 00:00
13 03, 2013

Playing to Win


Take a look at  your favourite football team’s list of coaches next time you’re on the website after you’ve discovered whether Boofhead is likely to play this week.

No doubt you’ll find a coach for everything – senior coach, assistants, conditioning, opposition, defensive, midfield, offensive, nutrition, not to mention the psychologists, trainers and all the support staff under the coaches. It’s no longer a competitive advantage; it’s now the minimum requirement for elite performance.

Now take a look inside your sales division. Can you hear the gentle whistle of tumbleweeds rolling through the office?

 At the risk of heresy, my contention here is not to hire more external coaches, but rather to look at developing your own internal coaching culture for your sales team.

 Here are the four key coaches for a high performance sales team.

 Sales Manager

This person is in charge of recruiting the right players, de-listing the duds who can’t kick under pressure and look at filling the gaps in the list.

 In addition the Sales Manager invests time in the stats such as quotas, forecasts, pipelines, account management and prospects. They also lead joint calls and have a bit of Canberra DNA in them to handle the political issues both internally and with clients.

 These people are however, not always the best skills coaches.


Skills Coach

This person runs the drills, role plays, exercises and conditions the team to have C Level conversations, build rapport, ask rich questions, present persuasive business cases to clients and eliminate bad habits. ‘Twenty push-ups for interrupting the client three times to waffle on about the Cloud during that last sales call’

 They may also provide some product or technical training for sales people.

 They help build confidence and re-invigorate good players who have had a couple of bad games by helping them to kick straight again.


Sales Mentors are a different breed again and can be invaluable to all level of sales people.

Often, they can be found in another division or across vertical product lines and offer a broader level of business acumen that helps the sales person to have business conversations with clients as opposed to product rants. The CFO of one of my clients is a great sales mentor even though the only thing he’s ever sold is his daughter’s bike on E-Bay. He discusses trends in financial valuations, insights into C Level management concerns and market opportunities and is unencumbered by being the day to day manager. He can speak freely, often be a sounding board for issues and he provides fresh perspectives on clients needs.


Finally there is the Bid Leader

This coach is charged with inculcating the team with much needed strategic advice on winning major bids including creatively designing business value for clients, steering relationships, deep and unbiased opposition analysis and planning the path to match day success.

 Obviously, you may not have the resources, structures or needs of an elite football team to have separate coaches but understanding the key purposes of each of these coaches may highlight where your team can improve to compete at the highest level.

 If you’re not coaching your team, just maybe the opposition is coaching theirs.

 At least one of you should be playing to win.

 Written by Elliot Epstein, CEO, Salient Communication

Elliot has trained and coached over 3000 people throughout the Asia Pacific Region and is a sought after keynote speaker on Sales, Negotiation, Leadership and Presentations.


© Salient Communication 

Published in   Sales Management