The children laughed at one another as each took a turn playing the game. With each passing turn, the children laughed harder, cheering on their friends. The game they were playing was “pin the tail on the donkey.” As each attempt found its way somewhere other than the donkey, the farther away the tail landed, the greater the laughter.
A blindfold makes it hard to hit a target that cannot be seen, especially after being spun around a few times before walking dizzily toward our destination. Although this is a game, with the players being blindfolded, there is still an intended target. It’s one thing to try and hit a target we cannot see, but something else altogether to hit a target we don’t have.
“If you don’t know where you are going, any road can take you there.”Lewis Carroll
When pursuing personal growth or professional development goals, I have found that whatever it is that we are trying to achieve can be found in one of these four categories: increase, improve, expand, and/or reduce.
It is also helpful to make a distinction between increase and improve. As an example, a business looking to define success and align key performance goals may identify the need to increase revenue while at the same time improving their margins. Individuals I have worked out with may look to increase strength while improving stamina. And when we separate the two words, increase and improve, we are defining very clear goals and targets for each.
Some of us look to expand our capabilities in an area of our life or business. We may want to expand our knowledge or skill. Some of us may look to expand our thinking to gain a better understanding of the people in our lives and events happening around the world. We can look for opportunities to open more stores or locations, expanding our market share, or expand our offerings and customer base…
Salespeople who understand how to manage the game clock for maximum effectiveness will outsell their competition every time. I had two fantastic experiences this week with sales professionals who displayed excellent management of the game clock, or for our purposes, the sales clock.
Most weeks I have one or two virtual meetings with a salesperson who has a solution that I believe might be of benefit to our company, our partners, or our clients. I love to meet with salespeople, first to see if there is a product or service that can be of benefit, but also to see how people are selling these days.
Things I look for:
- Did they do their homework?
- Are they rushed, moving from one call to the next?
- Are they following a specific sales process or methodology?
- Have they taken the time to dress for success even when working from home?
- Are they in ‘tell’ mode or ‘sell’ mode?
- How are they managing the game clock?
The last one is so very important, at least for me. As someone who is also back-to-back with calls, virtual meetings, writing, and client projects, managing my time is always of critical importance. So, when someone respects my time, they earn my respect in return.
This week I had two virtual sales calls with potential technology providers for our business. Both displayed excellent clock management skills, knowing exactly where we were and when it was time to move the conversation along. They did it with finesse and ease. Not only were they professional in the entire discussion, but both also gave me back 5 minutes in my day.
Although the extra 10 minutes is always helpful, they both did something else that I picked up on. Keep in mind these were two different salespeople representing two different companies. They did give me back 5 minutes, but they had a reason for doing it that wasn’t just a gift for me. They used that 5 minutes to send me the follow up email we had agreed on, which of course included a thank you, as well as the information I had requested.
Yes, managing the sales game clock is something top performers have learned to do a long time ago. However, when I realized that two salespeople in separate conversations executed this move flawlessly, my curiosity was piqued enough for me to call them both back to see if I could confirm my suspicions. And I am happy to report that these two sales professionals were well trained and had developed this sales best practice over time.
They used the five minutes after our call and before their next call to send a follow up email, complete with the information I requested, and they updated their notes and the opportunity in their CRM. Much of this was automated through enabling technologies and the way that their CRM was configured, but they wanted to capture any of the notes and important details about the call and make sure it was accurate. Can we imagine the impact if all of our salespeople diligently followed this best practice?
Final Thoughts: There are many aspects and nuances of managing a sales game clock, just as there are in sports. And like most sports, in addition to the game clock, there is often a play clock that has to be taken into consideration. It is no different in selling. If we allow ourselves to get drawn into irrelevant conversations and rabbit holes, before we know it, we are penalized for delay of game, or the game clock expires with the score in the prospect’s favor. Whether it is a 15-minute introductory call, a sales call scheduled for only 30 minutes, or a longer 60-90 minute call, top-performing salespeople know exactly how to manage each one for maximum productivity for both themselves and their prospects.
“Time kills deals!” I still remember the first time a sales manager said that to me. It was early in my selling career and my manager had just asked me about an opportunity that continued to push. First, it was a one-month push, then two months, and then it was over, and I had lost the sale.
As a young and naïve salesperson, I lacked the sales savvy that would have helped me to see that there was never going to be a true opportunity to win the business. It wasn’t that I had just lost the sale to a ‘no decision’ or lack of budget, I had lost the deal to a competitor.
Staying in the game or staying in any one deal does require that as salespeople we must keep moving, as long as we are moving in the right direction. And moving in the right direction means that we are continuing to add value to the conversations and helping our prospects make the best possible decision that will help them close a gap or achieve a goal. Even if it means that at this time, our solution is NOT the answer to their problem.
Keeping our balance on a bicycle requires that we keep some type of momentum going. We can coast for a while, but sooner or later, we will have to do some pedaling too. Working hard at the beginning of our ride, and then keeping some positive pressure on the pedaling so that we do not stop. Or at least not stopping until we decide that we want to stop. In selling the same holds true. We have to know when to stay in balance, stay in motion, and keep pressing forward, but we also have to know when it’s time to hit the brakes and stop the ride.
Looking back on my experiences all those years ago, I am grateful for my sales manager who let me know that “Time kills deals.” It changed the way that I have looked at each opportunity ever since. It taught me to apply some level of positive pressure along the way. Not aggressive or manipulative, but the right balance of assertiveness and value-added selling. The goal is to recognize that there is an opportunity to do business or not. Equally as important is to help our prospect to fully understand if our solutions can help fill a gap or achieve their goal.
If we can disqualify the opportunity, meaning a “no” for now, and do so professionally, or they can disqualify us and our solution for now, it is a huge win for both of us. They get to spend time with other providers who can help them, and we get to move on to other prospects where we have a true sales opportunity.
Final Thought: Newer salespeople are impacted by this more than seasoned sales veterans. Top performers know the importance of setting expectations, inspecting those expectations, and level-setting with their prospects to avoid this trap is crucial to sales success. When deals start ‘pushing’ out, and the prospect keeps asking for more information or more time, remember to pump the brakes, stop, get off the bicycle, and have a candid conversation with the prospect about what is happening, why, and reset expectations.
Years ago, I was introduced to a concept that I found really helpful in the management and motivation of my sales team, and then as my responsibilities grew, I found it was beneficial to the entire company. It was called “Good News Friday.”
The idea is that each Friday the team would jump on a call and share the best news of the week. The top performers loved to share the business they had won during the week, opportunities that were advancing, and news about new prospects. We did it in such a way that it wasn’t boasting or bragging, it was done to help inspire others.
Those who were not performing as they needed to be, both from a personal or company perspective, began amplifying their sales game. No one wanted to show up without something good to report, so they worked hard to make sure that they could participate on “Good News Friday” with everyone else and feel good about what they shared. And everyone knew that they would be called out by peers if they were fabricating their story or results.
After a while, I changed it up a bit. “Good News Friday” was still going on in each team or department, but what I added was asking different individuals who needed a little boost to join me on another quick call on Mondays. During this call, I asked each person what they thought the one thing that they could do, and were in control of, that they could look back on Friday and claim the week was a sales success.
Even top performers who were in a bit of a slump found this helpful.
Is it a simple approach? Yes. Are others doing it? I hope so. Are they doing it and seeing better results? If they are doing it right. Here is what I mean by doing it right. The goal here is not to ‘tell’ our salespeople what to do during these calls, that guidance comes as part of our coaching and mentoring. The Monday calls were asking each team member what they thought would define their sales success for the week. They needed to own that. My job was to talk them through it and ask clarifying questions so that we both understood the expectation and the metric we would use for achieving a successful sales week.
This had to be something that they could be proud to share with their teammates and their manager. No fluff, no easy tasks, no ‘get-out-of-jail’ free cards. It had to be quantifiable achievements, specific activities, and results-oriented. As this practice became repeatable, instead of fearing “Good News Friday,” they couldn’t wait to participate and get their turn on the call.
Final Thoughts: Just as a reminder, sales leadership and sales managers would do well to take off the superhero cape and not jump in to rescue their salespeople. Make it about them. Use the word “You” instead of “I” or “Me.” Resist the urge to retell your own triumphs and successes. They already know you are the boss and how you got there. Make this about them and watch them grow, claiming sales success and earning an income that they may have never dreamed possible.
Society thrives on one-upmanship. In everything we do, whether we realize it or not, we set a bar. And as we set the bar, more often than not, we try and improve upon whatever it is we are doing.
Sometimes this just happens and we become accidental goal setters. However, there are certain things and times in our life when we become intentional about setting the bar and even raising the bar.
Whatever it is we did, we know that with some extra effort we can do it bigger, better, faster, higher, or farther. If we are a hardwired competitor, we look at what others around us are doing and immediately think the same thing, don’t we? If they can do it, then I am sure I can crush it. Does this happen because we are fascinated with winning or because we are compelled by competition?
Game on. The race is on. The heat is on. Bring it on. These are the things we say or the voice that we hear in our head when we are faced with a challenge, even if the challenge is self-imposed.
Conceivably, there is no competition because the other person, team, or company has no idea that we have become determined, and have set out to not only raise the bar but raise it so high that no one will ever catch us…