Monthly Archives: January 2014
Even though I’ve been in sales for a long time I still need to stay on top of things, including myself. A good evaluation can sometimes be hard but it’s essential to becoming better. I still find the more comfortable I get with being uncomfortable and putting myself out there the more I learn. Every now and then, you need to ask someone you trust to shoot it to you straight, to sit in on one of your sales calls and give you feedback afterwards.
All feedback, even if it stings a little, is positive as long as you learn from it.
In the days before modern harbors, a ship had to wait for the flood tide before it could make it to port. The Latin term for this situation was ob portu, that is, a ship standing over off a port, waiting for the moment when it could ride the turn of the tide to harbor. The captain and the crew were ready and waiting for that one moment for they knew if they missed it, they would have to wait for another tide to come in.
In sales we are always looking for opportunities. When we miss an opportunity we often find ourselves waiting much longer for unlike the ocean tides, that next opportunity is not as easily timed or anticipated.
Worse yet many of the harbors we seek in sales only have room for one ship so if another crew gets in ahead of us our voyage must turn for another destination.
Before I earned a wage or sold my first anything that resulted in a commission I loved playing sports. That was where I gained my first understanding of just how important a coach, trainer, or manager could be to helping me achieve goals. It seems natural that my competitive spirit later moved me in the direction of sales, management, and training. However what I came to understand over the years was the place I learned the most when playing sports was on the field, court, and in the gym. Rather it was practice or game day nothing beat the real time actually spent playing and coaching in the heat of the battle. There was no game plan, pregame or halftime speech that could have fully prepared me for the reality of competition. It’s was the right time and place to gain experience, make mistakes, and learn from failure.
Playing point guard in basketball I remember turnovers that caused frustration, cost points and sometimes lost the game. It’s no different in sales. You’re going to make mistakes and those mistakes are going to frustrate you and your customer, cost you money and cost you sales. However it’s those same failures that drive you to practice harder, pay more attention to detail and make remarkable improvements.
As a sales coach and trainer I know those who will ultimately be the most successful are those who learn from their failures and improve on not repeating them. No matter how much has been taught part of the process is let the player go out and play the game; let the sales person make the sales calls. When the game or career is over the coaching will always be valued but the experience will still have been the greatest teacher.
I have been fortunate in my sales career to have had some really great managers, leaders, and mentors. The more I’ve been influenced the firmer believer I have become in the “practice what you preach” theory. Since we often ask our sales people to step out of their comfort zones and confront their fears, we must do the same. As sales leaders we can’t lean so heavy on our past experience no matter what level of success that reflects. In other words – we still need to take some risks, because the day we no longer take any risk why should they?
It’s not enough to just observe great sales people in action. If you work with or know great sales people who inspire you, talk to them. Goals, strategies, and motivations are nice to know, but in 2014 you need to pick their brains about both the technical and mental aspects of selling. You will more often than not find that great sales people are willing to share their experiences. They have stories of when they first started or periods of time they had their own struggles. These stories can provide you comfort because even the great ones were once a little frightened and intimidated. They have made mistakes along the way and still do, but through their stories you may be able to recognize and avoid some of the pitfalls that lie ahead.
My advice is to hang out with people who can make you better!
A fantastic NEW YEARS RESOLUTION FOR 2014 would be to LEARN MORE than in any prior year. Great sales people never stop learning. They devour as much information about their craft as they can. If sales is your craft the question is how much time EACH day will you spend researching, reading, listening, or watching things that are specifically sales related?
I suggest 45 minutes to 1 hour a day doing just that. One of the best things about the sales profession is we are never too experienced or knowledgeable to learn more. The real trick to being great sales people is to never stop learning and challenging ourselves to improve.
Don’t take the time each day but MAKE the time. I like to start off the day with new knowledge or re-knowledge.
A few areas where content can be explored are websites, blogs, SM, electronic or print articles, reports, white papers, case studies, trade magazines, books, audio tapes, television, radio, and last but certainly not least real live people. You get there’s no short coming of content so what you have to guard against is paralysis by analysis and spending ½ you’re learning time deciding what it is you need to learn. You need to learn anything that’s new or adds an additional layer of understanding.
In reference to people I ask: do you observe your mentors, peers, and your competition? Who do you engage and spend time with while at work? Who do you bounce ideas off of? Who do you practice or role play with? Who do you seek out for advice? Who’s in your corner that you can always trust?
I hope you will have a great and prosperous 2014 and it starts with at least 45 minutes on your next business day’s calendar dedicated to learning.