This time last year, I set my reading goal on Goodreads. Somewhere around a book a week seemed like a reasonable stretch. This morning, I realized that I read 70 books against my target of 50. Thinking about my goal for 2020, my instant reaction was, “Next year, I’ll go for 100!”

It made me laugh. It wasn’t the villainous, “Bwaahahaha!” cackle of an evil villain (or genius mouse) vowing to take over the world. It was more of a head-shaking, ironic chuckle.

I thought, “This is exactly how struggling companies set sales goals.”

Chances are pretty good that you’ve worked in a company where a future target was set at an arbitrary point somewhere above the previous number.

“We did $700,000 in 2019. Next year we will book ONE MILLION DOLLARS!” (Bwaahahaha!)

Here’s the thing: $1M might be the right number. 100 books might the right number. The problem is the process of establishing and supporting that goal. Perhaps this will sound truly crazy to a few of you (and it should), but there are a LOT of businesses out there that set sales goals based solely on a wish to do more than they did last year. In some cases, it’s more than they didn’t do last year.

Relating this back to my book goal, there’s a lot more to consider:

  • Did I really read more than a book every week on a consistent basis, or were there critical factors that allowed (or forced) me to read a lot more during specific weeks?
  • Looking ahead at 2020, what do I already have planned that could impact the goal?
  • How was the experience of reading 70 books? Did it feel stressful or energizing? How did it impact the people around me and my life (i.e. culture) in general? Positives? Negatives?
  • Pressured to read more, would I tackle books without enough consideration, or be afraid of giving away those that weren’t right for me? What are the other potential pitfalls? What values and guidelines will I use to stay focused on what’s important?
  • Can I read 100 books next year with my current resources? Do I have enough time? Are there other things I will need to shift or delegate? Do I have the right budget, i.e. for extra Audible credits, more books, better headset, etc?
  • How will I stay on track with my goal in a way that holds me accountable, while giving me energy and support to do more?
  • How scalable and sustainable is this? What I should start to do or think about now to help me with longer-term goals?

But wait, there’s more. Whether or not you’ve already set your sales goal for 2020, let’s talk. Even if the number is set, I can give you some tips on how to ensure you have the right mindset, message, and methods to get there. Click here to book a helpful conversation or email

sales voicemails create relationships

Do you get too many emails? Most people will answer emphatically, “YES!”

Ugh. Right?!

Now, be honest: Do you send too many emails? Based on what I see, the answer is probably also YES. Even when picking up the phone would solve problems quicker, shorten the sales cycle, and increase close rates, many people have themselves convinced that email is more “efficient.”

Here’s the thing: Email is great for transactions. However, you must have conversations to build a valuable long-term and/or strategic relationship. If you feel frustrated that your prospects or clients are treating you like a “vendor,” take a look at how much of your interaction is email vs. phone.

You may be tempted to exclaim, “But nobody picks up the phone. It always goes to voicemail.” However, when you truly believe in the value of what you have to share and the partnership you hope to build, you still try. If they don’t answer, no problem. Leave a message. Sure, also send an email, and mail a letter, and try to meet them at a live event. The most successful sales process includes a multi-step, multi-channel approach. There’s just no question that phone outreach is critical for any business that hopes to go beyond order-taking.

Still, hearing that voicemail beep puts you on the spot. I get it. While email can be carefully crafted with as much time as you need to sort and express your thoughts, voicemail requires instant clarity. It can be intimidating.

Here are 10 tips that will help you feel and sound more confident when you are leaving sales voicemails:

  1. DO have your value and business mission in mind before you dial. You want to help them, not sell. You aren’t “bothering” them if they have a problem you can solve. They aren’t doing you a favor in calling you back. They are helping themselves.

  2. DO be clear about your goal for the call. If you are calling to get a meeting, say that. Don’t sell your solution. Say you’re calling to set up time so you can learn more about them, and talk about trends or challenges to whatever extent you mutually decide makes sense.

  3. DO leave your phone number at the beginning and the end. That makes them more likely to write it down, and gives them the benefit of not having to listen to an entire message twice if they miss a digit.

  4. DON’T give your email address. It’s too cumbersome, they won’t likely email you unless you email them, and you want them to call you.

  5. DO smile when you are talking, be confident, and put energy behind your words. Even though they can’t see you, your emotion will come through. If you let it, the power of your voice will be far more effective than any written communication.

  6. DO speak calmly and clearly. If you have to rush to get a message into the amount of time allotted for a voicemail message, you’re saying too much. Say less and slow down.

  7. DON’T use upspeak. Record yourself leaving voicemails and see if you are ending statements with an upward tone that implies a question. This is called “upspeak.” It betrays your lack of confidence, and undermines your credibility. You should only sound like you are asking a question when you are actually asking a question.

  8. DON’T give too much information. If you tell them everything they need to know, they have no reason to call you back. Pique their curiosity, and make them feel something. Your energy and clear intention will always trump a long, scripted pitch.

  9. DO end on a positive note. The best closings are “Thanks in advance” or “I look forward to speaking with you.” These statements have an assumptive close on a call back, and are also warm and friendly.

  10. DO practice and get help if you need it. This is key for anything you want to get great at doing. There’s zero need to suffer in silence. Why continue to avoid or struggle with something that will unquestionably help you and your business.

Here’s an offer: Go ahead and leave me a voicemail. I’m happy to provide some free tips specific to your business. Here’s my number: 1-603-327-9064.  

Any bets how many people actually call me?

# # #

frustrated sales executive
It doesn’t matter if you spend a ton of money on marketing to bring in leads, or you rely on sales professionals to make cold calls. A key frustration for most leaders and businesses who come to me is that prospects aren’t responding to multiple outreach attempts. Even targets who initiated contact and seemed interested, have a way of disappearing into the ether. Meanwhile, you may think your sales prospecting efforts are on point.

If you are a business builder who has had sales prospects going into the “black hole,” one (or more) of these five things is probably happening:

  1. You’re making it about you.
    Want to test this theory? Check your email and phone scripts. How many paragraphs start with I, We, or the name of your company? Remember the mantra, “Be interested, not interesting.” Lead with connection and curiosity. You’ll have the chance to tell them how awesome you are later.
  2. You’re trying to sell them stuff.
    On average, it takes at least seven touches to close a deal; maybe twenty. Stop trying to do it in one. The right goal in this early stage is meaningful conversation to help you both figure out whether there’s a potential fit, and then mutually agree on next steps.

  3. You don’t have a consistent process.
    There’s a formula for what it takes to close a deal. You want to figure that out, document it, and use it. Not quite there yet? Start with general best practices. (I’m happy to help.) Next to people, process is the most important thing in your sales arsenal.

  4. You’ve forgotten why you’re in business.
    Stop to fully absorb your ideal prospect’s psychographic, why you are uniquely positioned to help them, and why it’s so important that you work together on this thing ASAP. Authentic generosity, clarity, and conviction needs to come through in every touch point.

  5. Your language betrays your lack of confidence.
    Desperate and/or repetitive messages such as “I’m just following up…” “Sorry to bug you…” “Please return my call, even if it’s to tell me no…” all show that you need them more than they need you. Even worse are icky-salesy tactics such as alligators, cheesy movie references, and anything that can be translated to, “What can I do to get you in this Prius today?”  If it feels gross, it is. Don’t be that guy.
All of this assumes you are 100% clear about who you are trying to attract as your ideal client, and that your marketing and sales strategy are working in lockstep. If not, start there. Also, spend a lot more time on sales mindset.
As with most things in life and in business, it pays to work from the inside, out.
Need help? Schedule a free, helpful consultation. Let’s chat.
sales email screenshot

Today is likely to be rife with last-ditch efforts for business builders to close a few more 2018 deals. Your inbox (and maybe your sent file) is probably full of emails that start with, “I just wanted to…”

These few words say SO MUCH about the sender. Let’s break it down:

How an email starts says a lot about the true goal of the message. When the first sentence starts with “I…” there’s a pretty good chance that the objective is more meaningful for the sender than the receiver.

As you read the email further, the more times the sender says I, We, My, Our, the more they are prioritizing themselves.

The word “just” betrays a lack of confidence. It’s the word equivalent of knocking very quietly on a door of someone you don’t know that well yet. You’re visiting unannounced and you’re about to ask them for money.  On the one hand, you need them to answer. On the other hand, you don’t really believe you have any right being there. Deep down, you’re actually a little mortified with yourself.

Other phrases that also convey this lack of belief in your mission or value include anything that remotely sounds like, “Sorry to bother you….”

The remaining part of the statement, “I just wanted to…” further demonstrates that it’s all about the sender. “I want” also shows up as “I would like to…” and “I would love to….”. There’s also “I hope….” And “I am hopeful that…” (See also: “just”). 

In a very typical email that I received this morning, the sender used versions of these phrases SEVEN times in about four paragraphs.

My kids are actually the ones who taught me that when I want someone to do something, it has to be about why it’s important to them. The more time-crunched and desperate the situation, the more critical the communication approach. Yelling the sales equivalent of “DO IT NOW BECAUSE I WANT YOU TO AND I SAID SO!” may get the job done. However, it’s not going to feel good to anyone involved and certainly won’t help the long-term relationship. As noted earlier, being meek and weak is likewise ineffective. (This is true in both parenting and sales.)

In summary, remember these tips the next time you send or receive a sales email:

  • Use “you” early and often. Make it about them.
  • Be relevant. Do your homework and/or reference real conversations.
  •  Be confident. Go in deeply believing in your mission and value. Know it. Feel it.
  • Connect to their priorities. If they barely know you, they probably don’t care what you want.
    (Heck, they may not care even if you gave birth to them.)

Ultimately, all of this connects mindset, message, and method. This is what the Firewalk Sales system is all about. Need assistance crafting your next sales email? Schedule a free consultation, and let’s work on it together. Happy to help you!

Firewalk Sales works with sales professionals with a variety of personalities and experiences. It’s so interesting. Their attitude towards the business, leadership, and solution set always comes through. All else being equal, individual perspective can make the difference between exceeding sales numbers or falling short.

Here’s an old fable that illustrates the point pretty well:

Two sales reps get sent to a remote village to see if there is an opportunity to sell shoes. Shortly after arrival, the first salesperson calls headquarters and says, “Stop shipment! Not a single villager wears shoes so there’s zero opportunity. We will never sell shoes here.”

A few minutes later, the second sales rep calls headquarters and says, “Send me everything you’ve got! None of these villagers have shoes so there is an incredible opportunity to sell shoes here!”

Two different people with two different views on the same situation. One sees scarcity and hopelessness where the other sees opportunity and abundance.

Perspective makes all the difference.

Perhaps more importantly, changing the world often begins with changing our view of the world.


Businessman on a ski slope

In my experience, both struggle and success in sales comes down to three things:

  1. Mindset
  2. Message
  3. Method

Business builders often initially come to me for help with their message because they know I am obsessed with sales emails. Inevitably, we spend a fair bit of time on mindset as well. Once we clear the head trash, it’s pretty remarkable to see how much easier it is to communicate with prospects and clients. The message works better and feels better for everyone involved.

Method Means Process
When I talk about the third thing, our work revolves around the conduits and methods of communication. This includes the sales process from creating interest to closing a deal. People want to know exactly when they should be emailing, calling, and sending postcards or event invitations. How often should they reach out? What’s the best timing? Where does the sales effort and the investment in marketing fit together?

All of those questions make me sing. (Sometimes literally, if you’ve seen some of my recent talks.) I especially love seeing the light dawn as a client figures out how much easier it is to do things in a more systematic, proven, and trackable way. It creates a level of clarity and ease that allows them to actually enjoy the process and love their business again.

You know you don’t have the method step figured out if you feel overwhelmed and/or a little like you are just doing a bunch of stuff to see what sticks. You may be unsure about exactly how, where, and when the next sale is coming in. Furthermore, you’re not 100% certain what you can do to impact sales results with any certainty.

So, you send a bunch of emails, cross your fingers, and hope you’ll get a fantastic response. However, the replies are few, and you’re not sure why. Even people who seem interested at first have a way of disappearing into a black hole. Just the thought of making cold calls is nausea-inducing. Maybe even downright terrifying.

Life on the Slopes
Listening to business builders describe all of these things reminds me of going downhill skiing when I was a kid. I live in New Hampshire where there are lots of great ski mountains. If you’re reading this from someplace like Colorado or Utah, picture your mountains. Then, make them shorter, steeper, and covered in a sheet of ice. That’s skiing in a state where the official motto is “Live Free or Die.” For reals.

The first few times my parents took me to the slopes, I pretty much just barreled down the mountain. I gritted my teeth and held my breath, hoping not to crash into anything or anyone.  The whole way down, I repeated a useful mantra such as, “Oh crap. Oh crap. I’m gonna die. Oh crap.”

If I got to the bottom of the mountain without hurting myself, I celebrated. But not for long… because then it was time to freeze my arse off on the chairlift so I could go back up and do it again. Each time, I secretly worried that I might repeat the famous “agony of defeat” scene, and perhaps take someone else out with me.  Since lift tickets and ski equipment are expensive, there was no quitting allowed. Beyond parental wrath, the only thing that kept me from taking off my Rossignols mid-run and staging a mountainside coup d’état, was the promise of eventual hot chocolate and chili in a bread bowl.

Then, I started taking lessons. My first ski instructor was named Kim. She wore the ski resort’s signature red ski suit with reflective racing stripes up the sides. Spilling from under her ski mask, she had about a kajillion adorable freckles. Kim was cool. Without treating me like I was an idiot or a five-year-old (‘cuz I was nine…. and a half ), she taught me how to use my skis and poles. I learned to make my legs go into “pizza” to slow down and “french fries” to speed up.

In later lessons, I learned more about when and how to shift my weight, how to read the conditions and adjust accordingly. Eventually, I figured out that skiing is supposed to be fun. It’s not supposed to be terrifying. Who knew?  I learned to take a break, look around, enjoy the scenery, and maybe even talk to the other people on the slope.

Sales Process Puts You in Control
Method gives you a solid sales process that puts you in control. It allows you to use the tools you’ve invested in more effectively. It’s about getting to your goal and knowing exactly how got there. It’s the key to getting the same positive result in a repeatable, scalable, and sustainable way.

If you want to see an example process that outlines various sales outreach methods on a timeline, let me know.


More than anything else, I want you to know that building your business shouldn’t be painful. Fixing your mindset, message, and method ensures that not only do you grow revenue, but that you enjoy doing it. Look forward to every run, maximize your investment, take in the scenery, and more fully engage with everyone you meet along the way.

Think you might need help with your sales process? Let’s chat! I always offer a free, helpful consultation.