Sales and Sales Management Blog

January 12, 2015

Take Action Now to Create the Success You Want this Year

Are you in control of your sales career or are you simply going with the flow hoping that you’ll end up somewhere on the plus side?

If you haven’t done so already, here are some things you need to do now to insure that this year is the year you not only meet your annual goals but that you exceed them–that, if fact, you blow them completely away.

1. Flush out all of the tail chasing “prospects” in your system.
We all have “prospects” in our pipeline that take up time and energy but that we know in our hearts will never buy. Get them out of your system now. Don’t spend any more of your precious time on them. Concentrate on real prospects not  the “hope someday.” Vow not to spend any more time chasing your tail.

2. Get organized.
Most of us spend as much or more time “organizing” each day as we do working. Take a day or two and get yourself organized and then 30 minutes each evening getting ready for the next day. Don’t waste half the year “getting ready” to sell.

3. Know who a real prospect is.
If you haven’t already defined your ideal prospect(s) in detail, do so now.  Many waste a great deal of time chasing unqualified prospects because they haven’t taken the time to define for themselves exactly who their real prospects are.

4. Focus only on real prospects.
Even many who have defined in-detail who their real prospects are find themselves chasing after those who don’t qualify.  Commit yourself to staying on track.  Defining your prospect doesn’t do any good if you allow yourself to wander.

5. Eliminate the success killing busy work.
If what you do isn’t directly involved with finding qualified prospects, making sales presentations and closing sales, or getting a sale completed its busy work.  Busy work may make you feel like you’re accomplishing something but it isn’t making you a dime. If it doesn’t make you money, don’t do it.

6. Learn to generate referrals.
Referrals are the best, most cost effective prospecting and marketing method there is. Nothing can beat referrals in terms of ROI, close ratio, and client loyalty.  Yet, few salespeople generate many quality referrals.  Less than 15% of all salespeople generate enough quality referrals to impact their business.  Learn the process that really generates a large number of high quality referrals and turn your clients into your marketing platform.

7. Create a consistent client communication campaign.
If you don’t already have a consistent communication campaign for your clients and prospects, create one now.  You should be touching each of your clients and long-term prospects 12 to 16 times a year.  Use a combination of media–calls, emails, newsletters, letters, postcards.  Make sure each of your communications brings value to your client.  The key question to ask yourself before making any contact is “does this benefit the client or only me?”  If it doesn’t benefit the client, don’t send it or don’t call. Never waste your client’s time.

You have a choice–you can either take control of your time, energy, and sales business or you can go from crisis to crisis putting out fires while desperately trying to get a sale here and another there.

Life’s a whole lot better when you’re in control than when you’re at the mercy of chance dictates.

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January 31, 2014

5 Strategies to Maintain and Strengthen Your Motivation

Filed under: Uncategorized — Paul McCord @ 3:45 pm
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If you want to be successful you have to be motivated.

What is motivation?

Motivation is a unique combination of desire, commitment, and energy to reach a goal no matter how difficult it may be or how long it may take to reach.

Another way of looking at it is passion.

Passion in and of itself can virtually force you to succeed by demanding you do those things necessary to be successful.

Passion won’t let you rest.

It won’t give you permission to quit.

It won’t allow you to become sated until you’ve reached your goal.

Passion demands your best effort.

It pushes you to go beyond the satisfactory to the extraordinary.

It forces you to reach heights you thought impossible.

Passion is pretty heady stuff.  It keeps you on the edge.  It sharpens your senses, keeping you alert to opportunities.  It awakens the creative juices.

It helps keep the self-doubt and the  fears and worries at bay.  It doesn’t eliminate them, it overcomes them.

Unfortunately, passion isn’t limitless.  It has limitations and weaknesses.  Although strong, it must be reinforced or you risk having it burn itself out.

How do you keep your passion burning?

Here are 5 down and dirty ways to reinforce your passion and keep it burning strong:

  1. Love what you do. There is no substitute for doing something you absolutely love doing.  If you can hardly wait to get out of bed in the morning to get your day started you’re already half way to success.  Certainly we can’t all be engaged in something we absolutely love, but if you can, even if only on a part-time basis, go for it.

  2. Set tangible, realistic short-term goals.  The more often you see tangible progress, the easier to maintain your passion.  Set short-term, realistic goals.  If you consistently see small goals being reached, you’ll soon begin to see large goals being reached.  By the way, reasonable goals don’t mean easy to reach goals.  Goals should consistently stretch you and your abilities.
  3. Visualize outcomes.  Athletes use visualization for a reason—it works.  If you are afraid of making presentations, visualize yourself making great presentations.  If you fear cold calling, visualize yourself being successful at cold calling. Visualization is a form of practice.  In a study a couple of years ago researchers found that students who only visualized practicing a piece of music were as proficient at playing the piece as students who had actually practiced the piece on the piano.
  4. Use positive affirmations.  Repeating positive affirmations strengthens and reaffirms your internal belief system.  We cannot do what we do not believe we can do.  On the other hand, if we sincerely believe we can do something, no matter how ‘impossible,’ our brain can find ways to get it done.  Once we believe, our brain begins to go work to figure out a way to turn our belief into reality.

   Our brain will believe what it hears and what our eyes see.  If it has heard and witnessed failure for years and years, it   believes we will fail.  Fortunately, we can change that. It will take time.  We will have to
consciously   retrain it.  We’ll have to give it positive reinforcement through what it hears—our positive affirmations—and what it experiences—our small successes as we reach our short-term goals.  But just as it
learned we are a failure, it will learn we are successful—but this time we can control what we feed our brain.

  1. Use outside reinforcement.  Motivation—passion—is internal.  It isn’t something that is created externally.  That doesn’t mean that  external stimulus can’t reinforce our internal motivation.  The problem is that external stimulus such as motivation books, tapes, seminars, and such burn out quickly—usually within just a few days, sometimes within just a few hours.

   That quick burn doesn’t mean external stimulus can’t be valuable.  It can be extremely valuable.  A motivational tape can give us a great burst of energy prior to an important presentation; a motivational seminar can
get our creative juices flowing in new directions; motivation quotes can realign our minds at moments of exhaustion or weakness.

   Keep favorite motivational tapes and quotes ready at hand.  Take the opportunity to attend motivational seminars and presentations.  Remember the ‘high’ is fleeting—but you can drink of it anytime you need it.

Companies spend billions of dollars every year trying to find the magic motivational bullet.  They’ll never find it because it isn’t something they can order in from a motivational speaker.  We either have it or we don’t.  But if we don’t, we can take the steps necessary to find it and nurture it.

And it isn’t expensive, difficult, or time consuming.

Find your passion and you’ll find your success.  If you’re a sales leader, help your sales team members find their passion and you’ll find your success.

September 24, 2013

Lola’s Lesson in Overcoming Mental Roadblocks

Filed under: Uncategorized — Paul McCord @ 11:32 am
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Like a great many people, Lola cannot do some of the things she’d like to do, and that puts great limits on her life. Sometimes she can’t go into the hall.  Sometimes she can’t go through the door to the backyard.  Sometimes she can’t lie on the couch.  Sometimes she can’t eat certain foods.

There are just so many things she can’t do.

Not because she is incapable of doing them, but because she has made up rules that tell her that she can’t do this or go there or eat that.

I’ve spent years counseling sellers and sales leaders about how they put roadblocks in front of themselves that prevent them from achieving their goals.  Many of these men and women learn to see and overcome these self imposed obstacles while others don’t—usually because they don’t believe they have consciously or unconsciously prevented themselves from achieving a goal or doing a task.  Often they belive that something external must be hindering them since no rational being would prevent themselves from doing something they clearly want to do.

For several years I’ve looked for clear examples of how self-limiting beliefs work.  I’ve certainly seen situations where once someone has recognized a self-limiting belief they have eliminated it, but even in these situations the example isn’t crystal clear—there is some other possible explanation.

And then along came Lola.  She is the finest example of self-limiting beliefs I’ve ever seen—primarily because she has so many so often that they scream for attention.

Lola is a big, beautiful, healthy Golden Retriever.  A really sweet and extremely polite dog.  She won’t enter a room unless invited; she won’t eat her dinner until everyone is seated at the dinner table even though her bowl is in the den (within sight of the dinner table); and she loves for me to get in the floor and wrestle with her and she never fails to try to nurse my bleeding wounds after our wrestling match (she like to play rough).

But she also is constantly limiting what she can do by creating her own set of rules.  Oddly enough her rules never allow her to do things–they always restrict her from doing things.

One day she will decide she isn’t allowed to go into the foyer and from then on she will refuse to go in—you can’t even drag her in.

The next week it might be that she decides she is no longer allowed to have chicken jerky treats which she loves, so while the other dogs are eating theirs, her’s sits on the floor at her feet until one of the other dogs comes and takes it.

Another day she will decide that she isn’t allowed to go down the steps from the top to the bottom level in the backyard, so she’ll avoid the steps and jump up and down from the brick retaining wall.

At one time she couldn’t get into her bed—she decided she couldn’t step up the 10 inches or so to get into it.  She could jump into the car with no problem, she could jump up and down the retaining wall in the back yard without a problem, she could jump any place she wanted, but she couldn’t get up 10 inches to get in bed.

She is, of course, capable of doing all of these things but she has convinced herself that she either can’t or isn’t allowed to do them.

The power of her belief is so strong it overcomes her desire to eat her chicken treat or go into the foyer to greet someone who has come through the front door or do whatever she has determined is no longer allowed or she is no longer capable of doing.

In all of these instances she is easily capable of overcoming her limiting belief, and fortunately in most instances she does—sometimes it only takes a few days, other times it may take weeks or even months.

You may be thinking that this nutty dog seriously needs to see a dog shrink.  Maybe she does—but she is no different than us humans, especially most sellers and sales leaders.

We do exactly the same thing Lola does, the only difference is we typically are a bit more sophisticated in the roadblocks we put in our path.

And we overcome our self inflicted roadblocks in the same way Lola does—through learning that the roadblock really doesn’t exist.

I don’t know what Lola’s internal discussion with herself is like but I know that Debbie and I have to do a lot of coaxing and giving her a lot of reassurance in order to get her to enter a room she has determined is off limits or to eat a treat she has decided she is no longer allowed to eat.

The good news is we don’t have to have someone coax us and shower us with reassurance to overcome our roadblocks because we can do it ourselves through positive internal discussion.  And just as eventually our coaxing and reassurance works with Lola, our internal coaxing and reassurance will work with us to overcome our limiting beliefs.

If you are one of the sellers or sales leaders who disregard the power you have to both create and eliminate roadblocks, I’d encourage you to take a lesson from Lola—those self-created mental roadblocks are real.  And just as real is your ability to eliminate them—it’s all in your head, all you gotta do is use it.

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April 11, 2013

Fear and the Choice to Fail or Succeed

Filed under: Uncategorized — Paul McCord @ 1:05 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

This past week I acquired a new coaching client.  Nothing unusual about that–except this client, like many in the securities industry, finds himself in the position of having 120 days to develop a practice capable of sustaining his family—or he is out of the industry.  He just finished his 13 weeks of training, passed his series 7 and 63 exams, and is now on a four-month do or die schedule.

I have the opportunity to speak with thousands of sales people from dozens and dozens of industries.  Depending on their industry, their “life support” (their initial guarantee, draw or salary) to help them get started may have been as long as a couple of years—or as short as, well, none at all.  Almost without exception, each had to work their way through their initial start-up stage with the stress and fear not only of failure but of potential financial disaster if they failed since many had to dip into savings in order to meet their basic obligations, not to mention having funds to help them market themselves.  My newest coaching client is just starting his ramp-up period—and he is fully aware of just how short four months is.

For most of us, the fear of failure is a strong motivator.  No one likes to fail, no matter what they are trying to accomplish.  A salaried employee wants to succeed at their job.  An hourly employee wants to succeed at their job as well.  However, both the salaried and hourly employee knows that they have the security of a future income—even if they simply do the minimum to retain their job.  For us in sales, the minimum required to simply retain our positions is producing at least enough income to live.  Whereas the salaried or hourly employee is given tasks and all of the means to accomplish those tasks and is then rewarded with a set income, we salespeople are given a task, many times without the means to accomplish it, and then must create our own reward—be it large, small, or, God forbid, non-existent.

Not only do we have the fear of failure but our failure will have life altering consequences for numerous people.  Our fear of failure goes well beyond the personal disappointment, embarrassment, and depression of failing at a task. 

 Our failure literally puts our family in jeopardy. 

Our failure means debt collector calls, reposed autos, foreclosed homes, and no food on the table.

In addition, often, like my new client, we have a very short period of time to either succeed or fail.  Time is an ever present enemy.  We hear the clock ticking—even in our sleep.  We wake up to one more day gone, one more day closer to the ultimate consequences of our actions.

Yet, that ticking of the clock can be either our chief motivator—or the cause of our paralyses.  For most salespeople, time is a dominate factor in our actions.  We either find the clock a massive kick in the pants that moves us—forces us— forward and we find the strength, creativity, and determination to succeed; or we become mesmerized by the metronomic ticking, incapable of productive movement as we watch the hands of the clock inexorably move toward our final hour as a salesperson. 

Even after we get over the hump and begin to establish a consistent monthly commission income, the clock ticks away.  A slump, a slowing economy, an unexpected illness, and a hundred other factors can catapult us back to the edge of the precipice of joblessness and financial crisis. 

As a salesperson, we must prove ourselves each month, each week, each day, each hour.  The clock is unforgiving.  That mortgage is due on the first of each month no matter what your previous month’s sales were like.  The bank expects their car payment, utilities must be paid, food must be bought. 

How do you beat this relentless, heartless enemy?  The simple answer, though massively difficult for many, is action.  Selling is a high energy, fast moving sport, more akin to jai-alai than baseball or football; it requires a tremendous amount of concentration, dedication, and mental and physical activity. 

A more accurate and precise answer is that it is through well thought-out, highly targeted action.  Many salespeople mistake simple action for progress.  Action, though crucial, is hardly enough. 

Undisciplined, random action contributes to our failure just as surely as inaction does.

What is targeted, disciplined action?  Targeted, disciplined action is action that directly contributes to putting prospects in our pipeline and clients in our database.  In simple terms–prospecting, making sales presentations, signing contracts, and handling client issues.  Everything else—all of the designing of fliers, organizing of files, making of lists, reading and studying product brochures, and all of the other “stuff” we do, may directly result in our failure.

Not that these other things aren’t important–they are;  but they are simply secondary to our primary mission, and they don’t contribute to our success in a meaningful manner if performed during selling hours.  If engaged in during selling hours, these non-income producing activities hinder, rather than aid, our production.  These non-essential activities should be set aside and performed only when some direct selling activity isn’t possible.

In order to free ourselves for the activity of selling, we must have a plan in place that will allow us to spend our time and energy performing our four primary activities.  This means using our non-selling hours to formulate our future moves.  Instead of shuffling through stacks of leads or searching the internet for our next call as we sit at our desk “prospecting,” these activities should have been preformed the evening before so our prospecting time is really spent prospecting, not doing prospecting research. 

Instead of gathering our data sheets in preparation for making calls, they should have been gathered and put in a logical order during our non-selling time. 

Instead of discussing marketing methods with the new salesperson in the next cubicle, we should have phone in one hand and be dialing with the other.

It’s your money you’re leaving on the table.  If you don’t get it, someone else will.  If you wile away your time and choose to fail, you’re directly contributing to someone else’s success. 

Success is a choice. 

It’s a simple choice that takes great disciple and effort, but still a choice.  A tremendous number of highly talented people fail in sales every year—every month, in fact.  They simply choose to fail by making the wrong time choices.  They allow the clock to win.  On the other hand, many with little talent succeed simply because they were unwilling to fail.

January 31, 2013

The Myth of the Nobility of Failure

I’m a failure.  I’ve had two failed businesses in the past.  I agonized over them.  I lost lots of money trying to build and eventually save them.  I lost sleep over them.  I lost self respect over them.  My failure hurt other people—people who worked for me or whose business my business helped support. 

I learned a great deal from those experiences—although my initial lessons learned were false lessons.

Friends, family, acquaintances, and business “gurus” assured me that my efforts to build something were quite noble and that I really hadn’t failed, I simply came up a bit short of my goal.

I was told that I should take pride in my effort as I was one of the few who had the courage to take the risk–and that itself was a magnificent reward.

I was told that failure wasn’t my fault—I was a victim of the marketplace, seeking to compete against a system that was stacked against the little guy where I could only succeed through luck.

I was told to shrug it off as simply a learning experience; that the only failure was failure to learn.

At the time, I bought into that BS.  Because I wanted to believe it.  Because I didn’t want to admit that I had failed. 

Because I wanted—needed—reassurance that I still had value, that I wasn’t worthless. 

Over time I came to realize a painful truth, one that to some extent is still a bit difficult to admit—I failed.

And there’s nothing noble about failing.

There’s no magnificent reward in failure.

I wasn’t a victim of the system—I failed because I didn’t do the right things.

My failure wasn’t someone else’s fault or the economy’s fault or the “man’s” fault or my employee’s fault.  It rested completely and totally on my shoulders.

While buying into all of the excuses provided me for failing, I believed I had learned a good deal from those failures.

It wasn’t until after I came to the realization that all of those supposed reasons for my failure were nothing other than feel good excuses did I really learn some valuable lessons from my failures.

Only after I was willing to take responsibility for what happened and recognize how I was the architect of my failure did I learn the real lessons to be learned.

We live in an era where there’s a great deal of excuse making for failure.  When you fail there are people everywhere willing to give you a reason why it wasn’t your fault.  In today’s culture—even our business culture—everyone is given the victim excuse.

When you fail—and you will, whether it be big or small—don’t allow yourself the luxury of being fooled by family, friends, and supposed gurus.  They’ll try to make you feel better by letting you off the hook.  It’s an attractive but deceptive lie.  It’s a lie that will prevent you from learning the real lessons to be learned from failure.  It’s a lie that will set you up for further failure.

Rather than falling for the kind lie, face up to the harsh truth of your responsibility for your failure. 

There is no nobility in failure.

You weren’t a victim of anything other than yourself.

Failure isn’t a reward in itself.

Yes, it’s much harder than the alternative.

The weight of that realization is far greater than when others try to lift the weight of failure through their lies.

But the lessons learned will serve you well—and most importantly, wage war against future failure.

 

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October 9, 2012

Are You Dumbing Down Your SMART Goals?

If you’ve been in the working world for any length of time at all you probably have been introduced to the concept of SMART goals.

For those who haven’t been introduced to them: SMART is simply an acronym for the five characteristics of goals that have been well thought out and are realistic.

Here are the SMART goal characteristics:

Specific

Measurable

Achievable

Relevant

Timely

Many times when consulting with companies or individual sales leaders I find that in an effort to develop strategic goals they totally miss the mark either through unbridled optimism or a sense of desperation that causes them to overreach the possible.  In essence they dumb down their SMART goals by creating goals that cannot be achieved or that have very little relevance to their current needs.

My experience has consistently been that the error in developing SMART goals tends be in the areas of being Achievable and Relevant.  In most instances the developers of the errant goals have been successful in creating specific, measurable and timely goals.  Few seem to have a problem understanding what specific or measurable means and they certainly understand the need to put a specific timeline on the goal.

But creating achievable and/or relevant goals is where they most often get off track.

To create an achievable goal one has to have a firm grasp on the resources available and what can realistically be achieved with those resources.  I often find goals that have little or no basis in the reality of the company’s history, personnel, and resources.  Rather than creating a realistic goal, one has been created based on nothing but a hope that somehow the sales gods will shine upon them and the goal will somehow be met.  Every goal is created within a framework of history and with certain available resources.  Any goal that does not take those factors into consideration is flirting with disaster.

Others create unrealistic goals because they feel pressure to pull off a miracle.  Whether the pressure is coming from above or from an impending financial crisis, many goals are created for no other reason than to either pacify or deceive; and many times the intent is to deceive oneself into believing things aren’t as bad as they really are.

Another group will intentionally create unattainable goals with the belief that the team needs something to shoot for, something to really stretch them.  The concept is fine—we all need to be stretched; the problem lies in the result of creating unattainable goals.  Rather than stretching the team, creating unrealistic, unattainable goals sucks morale and kills enthusiasm.   Creating goals that stretch is not only good but is requisite.  You want to make your team have to really reach to meet the goal.  But you don’t want them to be put into an impossible situation where no matter how hard they try there is no possibility of success.

Equally destructive is creating goals that have no relevance to the team’s needs.  Whether the goals are created because the goal is a hot button of one of the goal creators or a failed understanding of what the needs of the team are and how the goal fails to address those needs, creating goals that aren’t focused on meeting the needs of the team drains resources, time, and energy from those goals that are relevant. 

The hardest part of creating quality goals is taking a hardnosed, realistic look at the goals under consideration and analyzing them in terms of the needs of the team, the available resources, and the history of the team and its individual members. 

Hoping that somehow your average team members are all going to become superstars or your personal hot button goal that has no impact on the real needs of the team isn’t going to drain resources is not only silly but is self-destructive.  You may be able to fool yourself and maybe even your team for a short time, but eventually reality will prevail.

Your strategic goals can either set your company and team on the right track or be a root cause of failure and wasted time, money, and energy.  Fortunately we have complete control over the goals we create; all we have to do is have the discipline to keep from dumbing them down.

July 16, 2012

The Value of Fear

Filed under: career development,motivation,success — Paul McCord @ 12:08 pm
Tags: ,

“I’m not afraid of anything,” goes the boast so often heard from sellers who are trying to impress their manager. 

The idea that a top seller is so confident, so cool, so well prepared that they’re not afraid of anyone or anything, including failure, seems to be more prevalent now than in the past.  Maybe I’m just more attuned to it now than I had been. 

Whichever it is, I’m hearing it more and more often and most of the time it seems to be coming from young sellers who grew up being told that they not only could do anything they put their minds to but they deserve success because they are the most educated and admirable generation ever.

It seems that the coddling has bleached out all sense of fear and anxiety—and a great deal of hardness and determination—from the up and coming generation of sellers.

And although this isn’t universal, of course, it seems we’ve done them a mighty disservice. 

To pervert one of Gordon Gekko’s quotes, “Fear is good.”  Fear is, in fact, the stuff that success is made of.  Fear of failure.  Fear of losing one’s job or status or position or respect.  Fear of disappointing oneself and others.  Fear of not achieving.  Fear of not living out one’s dream.

Fear is more powerful than the lure of success.  It puts more demands on you than the want of things.  Fear is a motivator like no other.  For most of us it isn’t the carrot as much as the stick that is the base motivating factor.

And we have a generation that has been force fed unwarranted success through the elimination of the potential for failure and, thus, the purging of the sense of fear of failure.

I’ve yet to find a highly successful person who doesn’t respect fear—and if you haven’t had the opportunity to taste it in big chunks you can’t respect it.  It is so simple and terrible, yet so powerful.  Don’t allow yourself or your sales team to live with the illusion that success can be acquired without the help of fear.

If you’re a sales leader who has sellers who voice a lack of fear, encourage them to go out and get a really good taste of failure.

March 7, 2012

Your Attitude Is Showing–Is It Killing Your Sales?

Whether we like it or not, whether we want it to happen or not, whether we believe it or not, our attitude toward our job, our attitude toward our product or service, and especially our attitude toward our prospects and clients is telegraphed to our prospects and clients through our voice, our body language, and the words we choose.

And, again, whether we like it or not, our attitude has a direct and often disproportionate bearing on whether or not we close the sale

Over the years I’ve had the privilege of working with thousands of sellers.  I’ve seen all kinds of attitudes.  I’ve run across sellers who were genuinely honored to work with their prospects and clients, others who were true believers in their product or service, others who had a servant’s heart and were anxious to be of service to their prospects, and others who were excited to be a part of their company’s success. 

The prospects of these sellers pick up quickly on the seller’s enthusiasm and confidence.  The seller’s prospects and clients are to some extent influenced by the seller’s attitude and are more likely to have a positive view of not only the seller but also their products and services. 

On the other hand, I’ve met sellers who were only going through the motions, who looked upon their prospects and clients as nothing more than a checkbook, who hated their product, service or company, or who simply hated the very act of selling.  Almost all of these men and women knew their attitude was damaging their careers and sales efforts.  Most were too lazy or fearful to address the issues or to find more appropriate employment. 

Just as positive begets positive, negative begets negative.

But I’ve found two attitudes to be particularly destructive simply because most of the individuals who exhibit these attitudes don’t seem to understand how damaging their attitude is.  In fact, those who have one of these attitudes are convinced that their attitude is a major asset when dealing with prospects and clients.

These two attitudes are on opposite ends of the spectrum, but both are far too prevalent and both are extremely difficult to eradicate:

Fear: Fear of failure, fear of rejection, fear of getting fired, fear of not being able to pay the rent, fear of going back to the office empty handed are all common fears with sellers and they all send out an unmistakable beacon to the men and women these sellers try to connect with.  And that fear kills sales.

The problem with fear is that although the prospect or client picks up on the fear, they have no idea the source of the fear and can easily mistake it for something more ominous such as an attempt to lie or cheat or even an attempt to scam the buyer. 

Fear is sensed almost immediately and sends up red flags in the prospect that tells them to proceed slowly and with great caution.  Further, the seller’s fear simply reinforces the natural fear that many buyers experience when making a purchase, making it even that much more difficult for the buyer to pull the trigger and make a positive purchasing decision.

The only cure for fear is developing confidence.  Confidence comes through developing the skills and experience to be successful.  Fear is often attached to a lack of preparation, training, and coaching. 

Fortunately, fear can be overcome, but too often it is simply allowed to fester to the point the seller either moves to another career choice or the company lets them go. 

If you or one of your sellers suffers from fear, address it immediately and get them on a training and coaching path to replace their fear with a solid self-confidence.

Arrogance: Just as deadly in sales but more difficult to address is the attitude of arrogance and disrespect for the buyer. 

Arrogance comes across in many ways.  I’ve heard comments from sellers such as: “He wouldn’t take my cold call and I’m a customer of his company.  I told his secretary that he owed it to me to talk me and any other seller who called,” “I finally got an appointment with the jerk.  I’m going to be a few minutes late just to let him know I’m not so impressed that I’m going to fall all over myself just because he said yes to seeing me,”  “He thinks he knows more than I do.  He’ll pay when it comes time to sign a contract,” and hundreds of other comments that indicate the seller thinks the buyer either owes him something or that he has little respect for the buyer.

The biggest problem with arrogance is most sellers with an arrogant attitude believe that their attitude is an asset, one that exudes confidence and power.  In reality arrogance is usually covering up some other issue whether a lack of confidence, a fear, or a personality or character defect. 

I’ve seen this attitude in a great many men and women who were at one time top sellers and who are now struggling.  It seems their way of coping with their lack of success is to become boastful and arrogant.

I’ve also encountered this attitude with relatively new sellers who very quickly were very successful and bought into the idea that they were in some way special.  Their quick success just as quickly went to their hear—and often their success quickly turns into struggles as they fall back to earth.

Whatever the root cause, prospects and clients pick up on the attitude quickly and when they do, their natural defense mechanisms come up, making it almost impossible for the seller to close the sale.

Dealing with a seller suffering from arrogance is very difficult simply because it is so difficult to get them to understand they are their problem.  Most arrogant sellers have bought into the BS they spout.  They have become believers in their own trash talk.  Not that they actually believe they can outsell and outperform, but rather that they are better than those they try to sell to and they deserve the respect they try to demand from others.  Ultimately they believe the prospect owes them something.

Are they a lost cause?  Frankly, most are.  However, I’ve seen a few that with heavy coaching and a period of close management have seen the error of their ways and repented from their sin.  Unfortunately, they are the rare exception, not the rule.

If you have either of these attitudes in your sales team (and I’m willing to bet most sales leaders have at least one seller with one of these attitudes) you must deal with them immediately and directly for more than likely they won’t deal with their attitude issue on their own.  Those who are fearful won’t know how to deal with it and those who suffer from arrogance won’t have the slightest idea their attitude is a liability.

If you notice that you suffer from one of these attitude issues, get help immediately.  If you are fearful, get the training and coaching that will give you the basis for developing the confidence to overcome your fear.  If you are arrogant, get with your sales leader and develop a plan that will help your eradicate your malignant attitude before it destroys you and your career.

Connect with Paul on Twitter @paul_mccord

February 26, 2012

In Praise of Failure

Filed under: career development,success — Paul McCord @ 12:44 pm
Tags: , , ,

In today’s politically correct world the idea there’s no such thing as failure has become so popular that it’s a staple of motivational speakers; sports leagues make sure that every kid feels like a success by giving each a participation trophy; schools teach kids that they didn’t fail, they just weren’t as successful as some other students; and some companies even make sure that every employee, even the biggest screw up, gets a reward for something.

Failure has become a forbidden, four-letter word; one that some think should be purged from the English language, for failure, they believe, destroys ego and can permanently damage the fragile psyche of a kid—or salesperson.  The very word destroys lives.

As a result we have today people entering the workforce who have never failed because they’ve been told that by simply showing up and breathing they’ve succeeded.  Many of these new members of the workforce rudely discover that failure is very much a reality—but instead of taking responsibility for their failure and learning from it, they find a million reasons why it was someone or something else’s fault.

Worse, society reinforces the idea that we cannot fail; we are told it isn’t our fault, instead we are victims of circumstance beyond our control.  We didn’t fail; we were victims.

Teaching the non-existence of failure is one of the most despicable things we can do to someone, as we are setting them up to be devastated when they are eventually confronted with the reality of the consequences of their failure.

The reality is, to put a little twist on a Gordon Gekko line: Failure is Good.

Failure only becomes negative when one accepts it as an end in itself, for there is a huge difference between failure and being a failure—one teaches, the other destroys.

Only through failure can we understand and appreciate success.

Only through failure can we grow.

Only through failure can we be molded into the success we want to be.

Failure is our teacher, our disciplinarian, our coach, and our goal setter.

Although training and coaching combined with time and effort are keys to obtaining the skills needed to become successful, they are in and of themselves insufficient to create a successful person.

If we think of training and coaching as the anvil that the hammer of time and effort beats us against to shape us, the hammering would be useless without the fire of failure to heat us to the point that we can be molded into a success.

If you want to become a success, get to know failure well and gladly take responsibility for it and accept its lessons.  Forget the silly PC denial of reality that failure doesn’t exist.  Instead embrace it as a key ingredient in your current and future success.

Follow Paul on Twitter @paul_mccord

January 24, 2012

Guest Article: Avoiding the Activity Trap, by Jeb Brooks

Avoiding the Activity Trap
by Jeb Brooks

Many salespeople make the assumption that activity leads to results. “As long as I’m doing something,” they argue, “results will come.”

This is a mistake. It’s the best way to get stuck in the activity trap. The activity trap occurs when you begin working too hard to make the sale. Sales is much more simple than a lot of salespeople make it out to be.

Above all, your interactions must be meaningful. If all you’re doing on a call with a prospect is saying ‘hello,’ all you’ll hear is ‘hell no.’ Instead, your activities need to fall into one of these four productive buckets:

  1. They educate your prospects.
  2. They uncover essential information about your prospect.
  3. They reveal pivotal information about your solution to your prospect.
  4. They close opportunities (for the good or bad).

First, Educational activities provide information to your prospects that make them more receptive to your messaging. These kinds of activities help them understand the business impact you can have on their operation. They help them understand that you have something meaningful to say to them. Examples include:

  • Sending useful content (e.g., articles, whitepapers, etc.) to them
  • Sponsoring roundtable discussions for your prospects to meet your happy customers
  • Publishing pamphlets about your solution
  • Providing well-documented case studies to your prospects

Activities that allow you to uncover essential information about your prospects are some of the most important. The most common is the face-to-face (or phone-to-phone) meeting. These probing meetings allow you to ask meaningful questions that help (1) demonstrate your expertise in their field and (2) gather information you need to make a meaningful recommendation to them. They include:

  • Surveys
  • Interviews
  • Focus Groups
  • Sales Interviews

Revealing your recommended solution to your prospect is — obviously — essential. Doing it, though, requires more than just activity. Instead, meaningful sales presentations are carefully targeted to your prospects particular situation. This can be done in any number of ways, but is dependent on effectively uncovering practical information in your probing meeting.

  • Webinars
  • Formal Presentations
  • Demonstrations
  • Tours

Finally, the most directly meaningful of all sales activities are those that close business. This is typically in some kind of interaction between a salesperson and a prospect-turned-customer. Alternatively, you might discover that a particular prospect isn’t a good fit for your solution. This, too, can be good because it allows you to move on.

If your “activity” doesn’t fall into one of those four buckets, it’s probably wasteful. Many outside reps believe that activity begets results. With one slight change, the statement becomes true:

The Right Activity Begets Meaningful Results.

Jeb Brooks is Executive Vice President of The Brooks Group, one of the world’s Top Ten Sales Training Firms as ranked by Selling Power Magazine. He’s a sought-after commentator on sales and sales management issues, having appeared in numerous publications including the Wall Street Journal. Jeb authored the second edition of the book “Perfect Phrases for the Sales Call.” He regularly writes for The Brooks Group’s popular Sales Blog <http://www.brooksgroup.com/blog>. Follow him on Twitter: @JebBrooks

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