I don't know much about baseball. But I do know that it is an incredibly intricate, complicated and tough sport. Watching my 9-year old son, Wyatt try to get his first hit in live pitch baseball really drove it home. And getting a hit is a lot like getting a sale.
Baseball legend Ted Williams said it best: "Hitting a baseball -- I've said it a thousand times -- is the single most difficult thing to do in sport." The reasons are numerous-speed and angle of the pitch, mechanics of the swing, the thoughts rolling around in your head and the fact that its impossible for a person to see the ball once it gets close to the plate.
Poor Wyatt, he is learning this first hand. "I just can't get a hit," he says. At first he figured it was a lost cause. But with a little encouragement he started practicing. "Getting at his bat." He started to learn that hitting a ball with a bat is one of those things that isn't as simple as it seems. After a week or two of encouragement, he finally started asking me when we were going to practice -- a great sign.
Sales is a lot like hitting a ball. Seems pretty simple. But, oh the variables of a deal. Selling is the toughest thing to do in business, otherwise people would be lined up to do it. Add to that the fact that when you get close to ink, its hard to tell what is really going on behind the scenes and you can see why most people don't have the stomach for sales. You just have to make your best educated guess-like where to position the bat to hit a ball you can't see all the way to the plate.
The variables can be endless can't they? In having the pleasure of leading a sales team for a while, I have seen lots of rookies step up to the plate. I have also seen lots of slumps. The new kids who make it take a workman like approach. They actively seek information and aren't afraid to get up to the plate and swing away until they get it right. Those are the people a sales leader wants to coach. Put in the effort, and little things will happen, until you finally get a single, a double, a home run.
The salespeople who don't make it were those who make excuses and used their lack of early success as a reason to be afraid of the ball. Truth is no matter how hard they were coached it wasn't going to help unless they were bought in. It wasn't going to help unless they tried harder than the coach and the other members of the team.
If you are new to the game of sales do everything you can to learn and keep swinging. And if you are in a slump sit down with your coach to analyze bad habits you may have fallen into or adjust your swing just like they do in the big leagues.
Last week, Wyatt finally got two singles and actually scored a run. He keeps swinging and I know the home run will come.
The panic button sits on my desk. And its a fantastic reminder that in sales staying calm is the way to go, even if you want to panic! This is especially true when you are waiting for a contract.
Hoops and Yo Yo (the characters on the button) sum up the emotional roller coaster salespeople go through. "Shit! What is going to happen! I'm freaking out!" We let our emotions get to us just like second graders. It's time to stop the madness people!
There are lots of sales discussions on LinkedIn. One sales person asked, "How do I pick myself up after a big sales disappointment?" There was lots of advice but the simple answer is: don't get excited in the first place. Be realistic. Don't let hope cloud your vision. Be a pro.
Easier said than done. Especially when you consider that panic or irrational fear or behavior is hard-wired in our psyche. What's also true about panic is that its contagious. And that can bring the whole team down. You start freaking out and chances are others are going to freak out too. The good news? You can train yourself to control your emotions.
Guess what? You have lots of practice. Remember fire drills or disaster drills in second grade? Yep, they were training you to control your emotions, especially when your mind is getting all primal and deciding to "fight or flight" when in many cases neither is the best option.
Every now and then you lined up, calm and in an orderly manner with your buddy and walked out to your pre-rehearsed spot. This taught you to stay calm, stay calm and not panic! Becuase when you panic, bad things happen!
This couldn't be more true in sales. What happens when you start freaking out about sales numbers, or letting your imagination get the best of you in a contract negotiation? You may do something stupid. Like bug the heck out of a prospect instead of trusting them to do what they said and building the bond that gets a sale.
Or freaking out could make you worry so much that you don't do other vital aspects of your job, like prospect and create smart proposals and communications. Or worse yet, cause you to say or email something you may regret! And you know what makes it worse? Stupid bosses who only ask "when is x contract coming in" rather than helping you in a useful way -- like reiterating their faith in you and your skill.
So how do you control your emotions and stay calm under all circumstances? You will find out in my next post. But for now, print these words and post them in your office: "Its never as good or as bad as it seems."
Working on a deal? Just who do you trust? Please say your prospect. Because if you don't, you may lose the deal. And you know what they say:if you love somebody set them free.
The American author Richard Bach, coined the term first. And Sting really went gonzo when he wrote "If You Love Somebody, Set Them Free" - check it out live below! But hey, this is about sales, isn't it? YES! As you listen to this song, you should be thinking about people you love -- your prospects!
Sometimes we hate them, but we really love them when they buy, don't we? I just want to give them a big hug when they pick us, and you know what, I do! But before they buy, you should set them free.
We are talking decision time, baby. You know, that period when you have presented a great solution and your prospect is trying to get an internal yes or convince themselves to really go for it? You know, that time when your oh so useful boss is offering nuggets of wisdom like "did you get that deal yet?"
Aside the urge to tell your boss to "shut the f up," which they should if all they can offer is additional bullshit pressure, you should be telling yourself to "shut the f up" too! Leave your damn prospect alone during this time of quiet reflection when they are deciding if they should really bestow cash upon you. And most prospects know you are getting personal cash from your decision.
At this critical time in the sales process resist the example from your crappy boss. Your prospects critical decision making period is the time where they may be looking for the one little reason to say no. You being a pain in their ass can certainly be that reason.
It all comes down to trust and love, Champ. You must show your prospect you trust them by taking them at their word when they say they will do something. "Checking in" which I wrote about in a previous post, simply won't do. In fact, its a lot like nagging. When someone nags you, what is your knee jerk reaction? Irritation and an illogical urge to do the opposite!
You can kill a relationship by getting too close. You must give people room to breath. Sure it's okay to inquire about a deal when a prospect suggests you should, but do it before then and you are sending a clear message: I don't trust you or believe a word you say.
If you love a prospect, set them free. Then watch the Benjamins roll in. And its always okay to sandbag the boss a little.
Got a hot prospect you can't wait to close? Hit them with some great stats from the latest case study, white paper or report! That will convince them. Convince them to not buy from you!
Say what?! How on Earth will you convince said prospect to go with your solution? We will get to that--promise. First let's get something straight-research is only valuable to the eye of the beholder. And no research can trump deeply ingrained perceptions. In fact, presenting research can many times hurt you more than help you.
It all has to do with the fact that people know you want to sell them, and they are wary about any fact you throw at them. Want to prove something? You can find a study of some sort to back it up...or not. Just Google it and you will see for yourself. Most savvy buyers know this, and the higher you get up the corporate food chain the more challenging it will be for people to buy stats.
People in the C suite know how easy it is to make numbers look the way they want because they do it every day. They also know from experience that research numbers can vary widely based on how a question is worded and that most people use stats out of context and cherry pick to the advantage of their issue. Or the confidence factor of the study they quote isn't published because the sample size is so iny weenie.
Dr. John Best is one of the most renown experts in statistics and their manipulation. He has written the books: "Damn Lies and Statistics", "More Damn Lies and Statistics", and "Stat-spotting: A Field Guide to Identifying Dubious Data" In a 2008 paper entitled: "Birds–Dead and Deadly: Why NumeracyNeeds to Address Social Construction", Best noted that: "Once people start to take a problem seriously, good things—money,status, and so on—can begin to flow to its promoters. It is quite easy for someone to sincerely believe that some problem demands attention, and for that person to also have a vested interest in that problem gaining attention. Neither characteristic does much to encourage critical thinking about statistics about the problem—at least not regarding those numbers that seem to confirm the problem’s importance."
As a salesperson you have a vested interest in serving up stats that are going to sell your crap. I'm not saying you are intentionally being dishonest but hey wanting to put food on the table can certainly decrease your degree of skepticism. Buyers know this, Champ. And besides, they could care less about how other people view things. It's like a second grander coming home with a "C" and saying everyone else got one. All that matters is them. Everyone else is irrelevant.
People make their own reality. And since stats can be manipulated to support any cause, people are free to come to their own conclusions. The company I work creates content for marketing companies. We recently met with an old codger who owns eight car dealerships to convince him to start taking money from newspapers and applying it to content on his site that can be found in Google searches and social media.
Evidence that newspapers are dying is overwhelming. Just look at your local rag and how small it has gotten. We presented tons of stats, many from the automotive dealers association that supported our argument--newspapers suck, on-line rules and you are a fool not to take advantage.
Guess what he said at the end of the presentation? "I still think when people buy a car they get a newspaper." Two hours and tons of stat digging...gone. Thank goodness we developed a magazine concept that he can send to customers, just in case. Guess what he is going to end up buying? The magazine, because he believes in it.
That example solidified my hunch: If you rely on tons of third party statistics it shows glaring weakness in the value of your solution, especially to the prospect. Why? Because if you had listened to their needs, really dug into the pain, really worked your tail off to find out the true reason why a person wants to buy your solution, and removed your selfish needs from the equation (like selling a mult-platform content strategy for lots of cash) you wouldn't need damn lies and statistics.
All you would need to do is show up with this clear message: I listened to what you had to say and here's a solution to what you think is important.
Forget the stats, and you will sell more. I know we will.
You hear it time and time again. "The hardest thing to do is find and keep good salespeople." There's lots of implications to "find and keep good sales people." Let's focus on the "good" part. Want the truth about why you or a colleague got fired from a sales job? Read on.
I've had the unfortunate task of letting go quite a few salespeople. Some I honestly shouldn't have hired in the first place. All of them sucked to let go. Despite the tough exterior of a manager letting someone go, and the fact that it was the right business decision, I promise you we lose sleep over it and it hurts to deliver the news. As a rule salespeople will tell you:
- They have a deal about to close
- They didn't get enough help
- If only they had another month
- Their territory sucks
- If only X deal had closed they wouldn't be fired
- I have a lot in the funnel
On cue, they will say those things. And you know what? That's exactly why they were fired. Every last one of them. All those excuses are endemic of a sales person who sucks and is just getting by. I don't know about your place, but just getting by doesn't cut it.
"Deal about to close" and "If they only had another month" is an indicator that the salesperson is a wishful thinker and hoping to "catch a break" rather than make their own breaks. This can turn into a vicious cycle of lackluster performance that will eat up a year faster than a second grader looking forward to Christmas. BAM! 364 days till next Christmas or the end of the next fiscal year.
Wishful thinking rears its ugly head when you hear "I have a lot in the funnel." News flash, sales managers would be total idiots to fire someone with a fat funnel. Salespeople find many unique ways to be a pain in the ass, especially successful salespeople, but smart managers placate the bullshit for the bigger picture.
If you have a fat funnel you are sticking around unless you do something really stupid like shit on the boss's desk. Trust me, I'm the beneficiary of bosses who had the patience of Job to put up with my bullshit before I wised up. Because I really did have a fat funnel (and never did the desk thing).
You know what is sobering? Digging into a fired salesperson's funnel. There's usually even less than one would expect. Fat funnel my ass!
Territory sucks? Really? The more this is said, the more salespeople convince themselves its true. Salespeople worth their salt make things happen. Others make excuses. Like not getting enough help. Sales managers get paid when people sell. Why wouldn't we want to help you?
How do you summarize why you got fired? Because you didn't work hard enough.
Jeffery Gitomer talks about sales taking HARD WORK. HARD WORK. Sustained, nose to the grind stone killer instinct kind of stuff. Unfortunately most of the people I've let go, had it the beginning, got comfortable and backed off. You must work hard all the time.
Sales isn't second grader soccer where everyone wins and even the uncoordinated kids get to play. That "everyone wins" crap has no place in sales, but people amazingly carry it into adulthood. So if you are scratching your head wondering why you got fired from a sales job look in the mirror. Smiling back at you is the reason why.