By Matt Heinz, President of Heinz Marketing

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This week’s show is called The Lost Art of Note Takingand our guest is Saro Zargarian, Senior Director of Go-To-Market Operations at Blueshift and creator of the SMART BOOK FIELD GUIDE.

I am excited to have Saro on for a variety of reasons. He’s been a leader in sales management and sales operations for a long time, but what really peaked my interest as a productivity organizational nerd, is what he’s done with the SMART BOOK FIELD GUIDE.

It’s nothing like I’ve seen before. I’m a big Getting Things Done fan with David Allen, I’ve used a variety of journaling tools, full focus planners, et cetera, but I’ve never seen something specifically for salespeople. I ask Saro what was the impetus behind putting this together and where it came from.  It is a beautiful physical guide to helping sales leaders manage their day. 

Plan with Intent, Execute with Conviction

Saro talks about what that means and why intent and conviction are so important.  This and a lot more!

To learn more about Saro check out his website.

Listen in now and read the full transcript below.

Matt:  Thank you everyone else for joining us on another episode of Sales Pipeline Radio. We’re excited to all have you here. If you are listening to us live on the Funnel Media Radio Network, thank you very much for joining us and making us part of your Workday, whether you’re working from home or working from a socially distance office. Stay safe, keep your mask on, and hope you’re well out there.

If you’re listening to us on the podcast, thank you so much for subscribing and joining. We are here every Thursday at 2:30 Eastern, 11:30 Pacific. And if you are just joining Sales Pipeline Radio, welcome, and you can catch all of our past episodes, past, present and future, at We are featuring every week, some of the best and brightest minds in B2B sales and marketing. Today, absolutely no different, very excited to have with us. I’m hoping I’m going to get your name here right man, Saro Zargarian. Did I get that right?

Saro:  Yes, Matt. Hi. How are you doing? Thank you for having me on.

Matt:  I’m good. And thanks so much for joining us and excited to have you on for a variety of reasons. You’ve been a leader in sales management and sales operations for a long time, but what really peaked my interest as a productivity and sort of organizational nerd, is what you’ve done with the Smart Book Field Guide. So first of all, thanks for joining us and maybe give people a little bit of an update on your background and what brought you here.

Saro:  Thanks again. Yeah, I’ve been working in the San Francisco Bay area for my entire career. My focus has been in operations, go-to-market, sales coaching, sales management. Companies I’ve worked for over the years, primarily focused on the startup early stages, SaaS of course. SaaS phase right here in the Bay area.

Matt:  But what really, again, of my interest for you to join today is this Smart Book Field Guide. And it’s nothing like I’ve seen before. I mean, I’m a big Getting Things Done fan with David Allen, I’ve used a variety of sort of journaling tools, full focus planners, et cetera, but I’ve never seen something specifically for salespeople. What was the impetus behind putting this together? Where’d this come from?

Saro:  Over the years have supported and worked with some brilliant minds in sales leadership. And one of the painstaking things that I’ve watched them go through is trying to get a good read on where to deal is and what’s going on with the deal without having to jump through hoops and CRM data, pinging the reps, just back and forth, just trying to make sense of things. And the good ones, what I’ve seen them do is, no matter the technology that’s out there, they carry a notebook with them and they jotted down notes.

And over the years with curiosity, I asked like, “Why don’t you just type it up in the computer?” It’s like, “No, this works for me better, it sticks in my head better, organize my thoughts. I’m planning, I’m preparing. And I don’t have to rely on a laptop for the battery to work, for the wifi to work.”

They just bust out their notebook and they can ramble on for hours of what’s going on with those deals and they’re on top of things. So that practice in that art of it, I called it art of note-taking, that’s kind of died down. People are seeing do it, they just type anything and everything they hear during meeting into an opportunity record in Salesforce. And it’s hard to make sense of things.

I came up with this, planner slash notebook that has a method to it. It’s tailored for sales, leaders who are looking to improve their coaching focus, right? They’re looking for ways of just being more organized, prioritizing your priorities. And there’s a simple method to this of following general KPIs reports that they review every day.

They have a section where they take their notes for their one-on-one session, with their reps and under sections in there for them to track key opportunities, key deals, key meetings that are coming up. As well as a section for them to reflect back on in a week, looking at the goals, what was accomplished, what was not accomplished. As well as the feedback that, the great sales leaders I’ve seen many times, they know how to rally the troops meaning around their peer group.

They’ll pass notes and insights from the market with their safe competitors back to peers in the marketing department, finance CEO, and it’s a bi-directional communication. And they do it really well.

Matt:  A couple of things about this thing. I got myself a copy, first of all, it’s gorgeous. It’s a brown leather, it’s beautiful. It’s the kind of thing that you would be proud to have sitting on your desk, getting in front of a client meeting. I assume that we ever get it enough to go back to doing in-person client meetings again, or seeing people face to face.

It really is gorgeous. And, to take a step back on sort of the purpose, one of the things that says right on the front of the guide. It says plan with intent, execute with conviction, talk a little bit about what that means and why intent and conviction were such an important part.

Saro:  That’s a thing for me personally, growing up just in my career, my father would always tell us like, “Whatever are you going to do, do it with conviction.” And that’s stuck to me for years. And it’s that you just do it with not much intention behind it, but really get behind it, plan, think through your steps and go for it. The other part of planning with intent is in sales. I’ve seen where a lot of folks don’t plan ahead.

Meaning when you’re in sending out a agenda item, an invitation for upcoming meeting with a prospect, they don’t even list their agenda item details in there to minutes where we’re trying to accomplish. So there’s less thought that goes into it. Even the smallest things, going into planning, like pay attention to details, care, set expectations, and follow through in a methodical manner.

So the planning is key. The intent of course, there the keyword intent is what are you trying to do? What is intention here on that meeting? Are you planning to execute accordingly? The next thing was conviction of course, it’s making sure that you’re up to speed. You have your notes ready, you know your audience and you come prepared and you’re in control of that meeting. You’re driving engagement. You’re trying to make the most of it for the prospect and delivering value in that engagement.

Matt:  Now let’s walk through some of the keys. I mean, what I love about this as well is it has pages for all seven days of the week and sort of Saturday and Sunday are put together. And it’s really more about just sort of taking notes and reminders, but Monday and Friday are different in here. So first of all, I mean, this is really focused on sales leaders, sales managers.

There’s a ton of value here, obviously for a frontline sales exec to use this as well. But the structure and the cadence that you have in here is really focused on leadership. So let’s walk through some of this … Because I think the book does a nice job of this, but these are just general best practices for anyone running a sales team and managing sales folks. Talk about Monday, why is Monday different? And what are some of the focus areas that people need to do on Mondays?

Saro:  Sure. You’re setting the tone on Mondays. And what you’re trying to do is establish the right sense of expectations with the team. So majority of the sales, what I’ve seen them do is understand “Okay, what are the key client that we’re tracking for this week?” They get ahead of it. They’re writing it down.

It’s set of priorities for that week and they plan and prepare how to coach and help their sales reps to it. A lot of folks also are identifying, how am I going to prospect this beat, whether it’s inbound or outbound. And you need to get ahead of it beginning of the week and get an understanding of what’s going to be the pipeline activity outside of the key client meetings that are coming up.

Of course you have key client meetings, right? And then there’s a key opportunities. These are the opportunities that will help you make or break or number for that quarter. So having that every week, starting week setting those key opportunities on your scope and managing to it week over week, will keep you focused and keep those deals from your attention.

Matt:  Of course, the Tuesday through Thursday, as you really sort of get into the heart of selling when these are worksheets that you can have in place, throughout the week on Monday and Fridays as well. But you know, a section that I really liked that you have, it literally takes up almost half the page on sort of a regular workday, is coach and empower.

And I know a lot of sales leaders feel like they’re managing sales and not coaching sales as much as they want to, or as much as they should. Talk about that importance for you, and then how you recommend people on a daily basis, carve out time to do that coaching and of their team.

Saro:  The coaching part, it’s not so much, just let me look at a deal I’ll give you some pointers. The coaching part is understanding what works well with your sales rep and the great sales leaders invest time into making their reps better. And it’s not just about on the specific deal. Now, when you’re coaching, you have to understand what works best for that rep. Are you going to deliver some tactical coaching, some strategic coaching? What’s a right type of coaching for your rep?

Now part of it is, and the reason I have it in this book is you need to plan and you’re going to write down what area of focus is this week and for which rep. Obviously you might not get to every single rep for that week, but you pick one out and you focus on their weaknesses as well as strengths. Some reps are just, you’re A player reps, they don’t need much help and you’re more focused on empowering them, giving them, feeding that energy, feeding that success to even make them be more successful.

There’s a lot of thought that needs to happen around us, but the commitment of at least on a weekly basis, to try to coach those individuals who really the fundamental help around “Am I doing a good job of qualifying my opportunities? How am I doing my follow-up emails? How am I preparing for my demo meetings?”

And let’s say you have a sales engineer that needs to attend, if that’s the business model you’re in to sell their product. So every single step and stage of the cycle, there’s scales there. I would highly encourage sales leaders to spend time coaching.

Matt:  Love this and love this advice and best practices encapsulated in the Smart Book Field Guide. Definitely check out, or you can link over to the Smart Book Field Guide, you can pick up a copy good time of the year, end of year, beginning of new fiscal year, end of your holiday gifts for your team. Think very much appreciated.

I know we got, have to take a quick break here, pay some bills. We’re going to be back with more with our guest today Saro Zargarian. We’re going to talk a little more about … We covered Monday, we’ve covered the middle of the week. We’re going to talk about how to wrap up the week on Friday. How do you leverage the weekend by not working, but still getting your brain involved? We’ll be right back on Sales Pipeline Radio.

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Matt:  We are back. Reminder for our live listeners, we will be dark next Thursday. I don’t know about you, but next week at 2:30 Eastern, 11:30 Pacific, I’m going to be in front of a football game. May or may not be napping, but I hope you all are looking forward to one of my favorite holidays of the year, Paul. It’s four days that almost everyone, at least in the U.S. takes off there. Quite frankly, peoples kind of seem like they stop working and really enjoy it. Smaller gatherings, maybe this year, but family food and football is one of my favorite things, can’t beat that.

Paul:  Any changes to your plans? Are you going small? Are you not going away? Are you inviting me up for Thanksgiving? What’s different this year?

Matt:  Paul you are not invited because I mean, I love you dearly, but we’re just not bringing people in at all this year. Three young kids, we usually try to stay local but you know even with just my wife and I and our three kids, we are foodies. I’m going to have them thinking about the menu for a while. And honestly one of the biggest points of negotiation and I really mean negotiation for Thanksgiving in our house is who’s cooking the turkey and how are they cooking the turkey.

Beth and I both like to cook. And maybe you’ve heard me before, I like to smoke meat. I like to put things on the grill, like put things on the smoker. My wife prefers a wet brine turkey, I prefer a dry brine turkey. So yeah, it really is a point … Not going to contingent, but definitely a point of negotiation to figure out how the bird’s going to happen.

Paul:  Well, I’m going to be eating my turkey burgers, so there you go.

Matt:  Turkey burger all sounds good. That actually ,I think the second best thing maybe tied with Thanksgiving dinner is the post Thanksgiving leftover meals could have a whole episode just on appropriate strategies for that.

Paul:  Well just in that thought. I love hearing the post-commercial conversations that you guys have.

Matt:  Oh, thank you Mr. Transition. All right. We got a lot more to talk about with our guests today Saro Zargarian. He is the creator of the Smart Book Field Guide, a fantastic and quite frankly, beautiful physical guide to helping sales leaders manage their day. And what’s interesting, I think almost ironic Saro, you spent a lot of your career in sales operations, increasingly sales ops means, managing a digital tech stack, any pushback from some of the early users of this guide that it’s not digital, but it’s not tied into CRM?

Saro:  Definitely the younger generation initial pushback. And then I would sit down and just talk through it. It’s like, “Why? Why do you feel this way now, what’s working for you today, or what’s not working for you.” And my biggest promotion to it as when do you sit down away from the screen and away from the monitor and actually do some thinking, reflect on how things are working, where do you put your notes, or you’re always going to rely on opening up the laptop and getting into this robotic motion of just typing, looking at things.

And it is proven scientifically that when you write notes by hand, it has a higher recall ability than typing. So it’s not just my opinion, but this is a scientific site that’s been done. And that’s like my opening kind of engagement with folks trying to help them understand, this is a layer of another tool for them. It doesn’t replace a laptop.

Matt:  So let’s get into Friday. So, you do your work on Monday to sort of get the week set up. You’ve got a great system for organizing the week. We’re focused on the sales meetings you’re having as well as the focus on coaching and empowering. Now let’s talk about Friday, which is sort of a review of the week’s results, but also a significant section here for self review, which goes into a variety of areas. Let’s talk a little bit about that.

Saro:  So self-review like any profession it’s great to spend time to look back of how was your own performance and how do you achieve your goals, what worked, what didn’t work. And for a sales leader, the biggest things you try to take away … From my experience working in sales areas is how do those client meetings go for that week? Did you achieve your objectives and any new road blocks that came up?

And so the self-review, here’s what you did to help and coach to those specific client meetings how well did it go? What would you have done differently? And what strategies and tactics did you use that work well or might want to take it back? And, “Oh, I forgot to do this,” or “I should’ve done that.” And this is where, while your mind is still fresh end of the week, get the stuff down.

The reason for that is, as you prepare for the following week, what you need to do as a sales leader, as well as whether you’re coaching your sales rep or you’re getting involved in the meeting with yourself, after the client, you have a plan of action. You have some information in your hands and you put some thought into it.

“I’m okay, I’m going to try these things next time.” Or “Maybe I can save this deal. Let me send them email or call and see, ‘Hey, can I get another 20 minutes or 30 minutes of your time because there’s some things we missed.'” So that’s what the self review is to really sit down and have a realistic and informative recap of the week.

Matt:  One of the other things you’ve got on the Friday, which I like a lot and we’ve used in other formats is the feedback for key stakeholders. So, competitive findings, new intelligence, this is something that obviously I think sales managers can kind of consolidate from a lot of feedback from their reps, but talk about why that’s such an important cadence to get into as well.

Saro:  Sure. I mean, one of the things you see quite a bit is the healthy tension, I call it between sales and marketing as an example. Where good lead, bad lead, is all kinds of dialogue and views on it of, “Hey, I didn’t get a good lead. I worked trying to qualify. They should not have come to my desk.” Yeah. Why not? Like why wasn’t that a good lead or “I wish I had this content and I didn’t it,” or “I had to do some ad hoc work on the slide, but if we would have caught this earlier or found, if you would have given me a better slide, I think it would have gone a lot smoother.”

So you’re using some tactical as well as strategic things where you’re learning from the week. And you want to share that with marketing. So if marketing can catch some of these issues and help arm your sales reps with better content or even there’s some market insights for that. You found out that your prospect was engaged in a discussion as well with a competitor. What is it? How do we address it?

Do I need to take that information update our battle cards, or is there some of these things where we can kind of get ahead of it and share that with my marketing team, to maybe be able to provide some of those answers, through their campaigns that they’re doing or something we can put on our website to kind of start addressing those doubts or those questions that the prospect might have.

So it is that constant dialogue and keeping it focused on facts and findings will help the sales leader having better environment to facilitate their objectives with their key stakeholders.

Matt:  All right. And then let’s wrap this up with a discussion about the Saturday, Sunday page. So guess it’s on there, but I think even if we’re encouraging sales leaders and just to professionals in general to just take their well-earned weekends, our brains are still spinning. And I think one thing I’ve learned from David Allen’s Getting Things Done is that having a system of mind like water means, you’re taking the things that your brain, and everybody’s going to think about without you giving it direction and putting it somewhere that you can access it.

So putting it into this, I mean, literally 80% of the page for a Saturday, Sunday, it is one page for both days, it’s notes and reminders. So I look at that and think, okay, this is a great place for me to put things so that on the very next page Monday, I can go one page back, see what I’ve been thinking and incorporate that into my work week. That’s my interpretation of how we would use this. What other ways have you been thinking about like how people can leverage that sort of time on the weekend?

Saro:  Yeah, I would say don’t use that high value time during a week where your clients are available, for you to go through emails and notes. You’re wasting hours, you’re wasting opportune time to deliver value and trying to close deals. On the weekends, best of the best I’ve seen it, they step away from the computer, but they’ll bust out their notebook and sit there and put their thoughts together, some ideas and white boarding in that notebook.

And then as something might trigger a new idea, they’ll jot it down. And then Sunday night, typically is used, you hear this quite often from Sunday night, once the kids are asleep or once after dinner, they started going through their emails. They start thinking about, “Okay, how do I need to prioritize even my schedule for the week.” You don’t want to have meetings on your calendar and you know that “Okay, if I would have just taken a look at it the night before, what are all my meetings for that week?”

And then we shuffle things around to priorities for that week, based on some of these deals and things are being shifted around. But I see folks end up doing. They spend hours on Monday, Tuesday contacting people and updating their schedules, because “Oh, I forgot to do this. I can’t attend this meeting. I can’t attend that meeting.”

And so this is intended for you to kind of step away from things, while you’re calm and just relax on the weekends. In a sense, you’re just starting to plan again for the upcoming week, but not so heavy where you’re spending hours doing stuff.

Matt:  I love it. Well, unfortunately we’re just about out of time for today’s episode. Saro this is great. I know obviously people can go onto your website, learn more about this. Where else would you recommend people learn more about the guide and where they can get some copies for themselves and for their team?

Saro:  Yeah, definitely you can contact me at Saro Zargarian, I’m on LinkedIn, look for me there. And you’d go to for my contact, as well as there’s a shop cap, you can order online. And this is a self-serve website. If you have any questions, feel free to contact me at

Matt:  Love it. Well, thank you so much for sharing so much today. I mean, some really great insights. I think just a good program for just managing your week as a sales leader, as a sales manager. And I love the idea of having it on paper in front of you just helps you stay focused. So thank you so much for joining here today.

Thank you everyone for listening. We are going to be dark next week, Thanksgiving week. We got some great episodes of some great guests coming up here to round out this crazy year of 2020, but on behalf of my great producer, Paul, this is Matt Heinz. Thanks for joining us on another episode of Sales Pipeline Radio.


Sales Pipeline Radio is sponsored and produced by Heinz Marketing on the Funnel Radio Channel.  I interview the best and brightest minds in sales and Marketing.  If you would like to be a guest on Sales Pipeline Radio send an email to Sheena.