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…
If there was a better and faster way to achieve sales results, you would want to know about it, wouldn’t you?
So, you’ve invested more money in sales training recently and still only see marginal improvement, or maybe even no discernable changes whatsoever. New sales hires come through the onboarding program, but somehow the majority wash out or turnover within the first six months. This has always been a very dangerous and expensive game to play.
There has to be a better way.
Within the past 18 months, your strategy might have been to refocus the training initiatives around remote or virtual selling. As outside sellers became inside sellers, the transition should have been easy enough. I mean really, all we had to do was give them some quick lessons on how to engage, and follow the sales process during a virtual sales call, not unlike what they did when they were visiting customers and meeting new prospects in person. Simple stuff, right?
There must be a more productive approach.
Well, if our new hire onboarding program isn’t accelerating sales success, and our approach to retraining our existing sales force the nuances of selling virtually hasn’t yielded the results we are looking for yet, surely the answer can be found in technology. Let’s evaluate our tech stack, invest in the newest, latest, and greatest apps and tools that will help us transform maybe even automate the way we sell while taking some pressure of the sales organization.
There has to be an app for this.
Not sure if this idea will work for you or your team, but if you will give this blog just a little bit longer of a read, this may just be something that you can tap into to achieve the results you have been striving for. Even if you are already exceeding your numbers, you may want to consider the following recommendation to ensure future success as well.
If there was a better and faster way to achieve sales results, you would want to know about it, wouldn’t you? The answer is yes, I’ll help you with the tough ones.
We build better businesses when we build better people. We build better sales organizations by building better salespeople. So instead of taking an extremely bright college graduate and destroying what otherwise would have been a bright and stellar sales career by introducing them to a sales process that won’t make much sense immediately, make the investment in the person first to make sure they are prepared for adversity, rejection, objections, change, and pressure of working towards quota attainment. Instead of trying to teach even your most seasoned and successful salespeople how to sell remotely or virtually, try equipping them mentally and emotionally with ways to handle the changing sales landscape.
They have the relationships. They know the products, services, and solutions better than anyone. But a change has happened, being tech-savvy and data-driven are now vital to sales success. If this is new to them, shoving it down their throat is not the answer. And I am not talking about coddling them either. What I am recommending is finding the best personal and professional development program that you can that will prepare the new hire, the seasoned professional, and everyone in between work in the most productive mindset possible.
This is your game changer that the competition will miss as they continue cycling through sales process training first.
Now you may be thinking that no one ever did this for you. No, you had to learn the hard way. You cold-called your way through your early career and have the bloody noses, worn out soles on your shoes, and the bumps and bruises that came with going through the sales school of hard knocks. If you could do it, today’s salespeople can and should do it too.
“What got you here won’t get you there.”– Marshall Goldsmith
If a performance development change is needed in your sales organization, you can try researching sales training providers, or maybe call one of them that you had worked with in the past to deliver some sales process training. Or, you could take the time to write a lengthy RFP, invite training providers to participate, assemble a committee to review the responses, invite three or four companies to present their content and facilitators, short list that down to two companies, invite your team back together to select the winner, negotiate and execute the agreement, and then after several months have passed, and the team that needed the most training has turned over again, you can deliver a program that is no longer relevant, if it was ever even really relevant at all.
Or… you could choose the best sales development program that is not really classified as a “sales training” program at all. You could choose to work with a partner to implement a program that has the potential to develop everyone in your organization, and I mean everyone from leadership on down the line. It should be a program that focuses on the people, the most important asset within your company. The content should focus on:
- Building a Healthy Self Image
- Developing and Maintaining a Positive Attitude
- How to Build Winning Relationships at Home and at Work
- Goal Setting and Achievement (Perhaps you can call this Quota Setting and Achievement)
- Creating an Atmosphere and Culture of Hope
Hope? Did he just say hope? Hope is not a strategy. You almost had me, right up until that last bullet point. I mean hope, really?
Yes, hope, I said it for real. Every single person in your organization has hope for something, good family relations, friends, a good social life, to earn a solid income, to be reasonably prosperous, a healthy and happy retirement, happy and healthy children and grandchildren, to go on vacation, to become debt free, etc., you get the point. And yes, everything here requires a strategy too, but when hope is born, potential becomes limitless, dreams can become realities, and sales quotas are crushed.
“Hope is the foundational quality of all change, and encouragement is the fuel which keeps hope alive.”– Zig Ziglar
Hope fuels passion, passion drives purpose, purpose ignites performance, and inspired performance leads to results. We all have hope, and we all want results. It’s really that simple. If you want to build a better team, a better business, a better school, a better community, a better home, work on building the people and watch as the results you achieve are far greater than you have ever imagined possible.
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.
When we anticipate the future, do we see ourselves winning or succeeding? Or do we look into our future and see only losses or failure ahead?
Some could see this as a simple difference between optimism and pessimism. However, it is more than that too. When we dream, we don’t typically dream of the fish we almost caught, the deal we almost won or the meal we almost prepared.
No, typically in our dreams we catch the fish, and it is bigger than we expected; we close the deal, and it’s worth more in commission than any previous deal we had sold; and the dinner we cooked was nothing short of culinary perfection, worthy of qualifying for a spot on a famous cooking show.
Over the course of life, I have yet to find the person who shared a dream where they saw themselves shanking a drive on the golf course, had a big outdoor event like a wedding getting rained out or canceled, or the company they were about to start becoming an immediate and utter failure. When those do occur, those are nightmares, not dreams.
All visions of success are not limited to dreams. As a matter of fact, many people who have achieved their goals in life didn’t passively wait for success to happen to them, they went ahead and made success happen. And the way they contributed to their success was planning, preparing, and rehearsing ahead of time…
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.
A few years ago, I had the opportunity to be a passenger in my friend’s Porsche 911 as he demonstrated how fast going from zero to 60 MPH in less than 3 seconds feels. And I will share with you that it was quite exhilarating.
In late 2020, I was reminded that I would be turning 59 years old this year. And then it dawned on me, I would be turning 60 in 2022. Simple math right. Where has the time gone — I mean sometimes it feels like I went from 0 to 59 years old in 3 seconds too. And then I remembered a famous quote by Michael Altshuler,
“The bad news is time flies. The good news is you’re the pilot.”Michael Altshuler
When I realized that I had 60 weeks to go until I turned 60, I knew I could no longer be a passenger, I had to get into the cockpit and take control over what happens next. With that inspiration, I wrote out my “60 to 60 Success Plan for Life.” The plan was built around one primary question,
“How do I want to arrive to the party when I turn 60?”
I will share with you that as I developed my plan, I solicited feedback from family members, friends and advisers. And although my personal plan was a “60 weeks to 60 years old” plan, I had people ask me to help them with their “30 weeks to turning 30 years old” plan, “42 days to turning 42 years old,” and someone who wanted help with a “30, 60, 90-day success” plan that had nothing to do with reaching an age milestone, and everything to do with making changes in their life that would help them to succeed personally and professionally.
Here are the elements of my 60 to 60 plan that I shared with others. You will recognize activities, concepts, and attitudinal adjustments around the things that I either wanted to change and would commit to change, or new strategies that would help me execute against my plan and reach my desired goals…
What do we tend to enjoy more, remembering our greatest hits, our “best of” moments, or our bloopers? It seems like most of the people I asked preferred to reflect on their greatest hits and most significant accomplishments. However, there were also many people who shared that they love to laugh, even when it means laughing at themselves. They completely enjoy their flashbacks of mistakes, gaffs, and harmless miscues of life.
We all have a replay button for our lives. It’s what we choose to rewind and replay, and what we want to repeat, or perhaps, avoid repeating in the future.
I think it is a fantastic idea to look back on past successes, especially as a way of reminding ourselves of the good things we have accomplished and what we are still capable of achieving. I also am a big believer of looking back in laughter. Those times where we innocently tried to say something and used the wrong words, made a silly analogy, or know that we uttered something outrageously wrong. Others laughed with us, and we still laugh at ourselves today…
Before we completely turn the page and allow last week’s Thanksgiving holiday to pass us by, I wanted to take a moment to thank every one of you who have done your very best to truly focus on what you have been most grateful for this past year.
You may not think it matters, but I can assure you that your sense of gratitude and appreciation never goes unnoticed.
And as we roll into the new year, I firmly believe that it is our gratitude and appreciation for the three C’s that may still be ahead of us —
Challenges, Chaos, and Confusion —
That will make the difference. I know that these don’t sound like “Winning Words,” but they are, and let me explain and why I see them as game-changers.
If we had to list all the challenges or difficulties that we have witnessed or that we are experiencing personally, we would have a very lengthy list. Collectively the list would seem insurmountable. So why would I intimate that a challenge is something we should be grateful for? It’s because in every challenge we see someone who emerges and goes out of their way to help someone else. We see people sharing God’s love, pursuing God’s will, doing God’s work, and doing it for all of God’s people…
One question that I seem to be getting more of these days is around motivation. Not only are people asking how to get motivated, but they are also asking how they can stay motivated.
People often say that motivation doesn’t really last. Well, neither does bathing, that’s why we recommend it daily. – Zig Ziglar
Ziglar certainly knew a lot about how to motivate us and more importantly how to keep us motivated. And he would also be the first one to remind us that motivation is temporary unless it is coupled with action. It is one thing to be motivated about setting a goal or getting inspired by the thought of a new project, and it is something completely different in taking the actions necessary to achieve our goals or complete our projects.
Sometimes we can use a motivated mindset as the spark that leads us to take the actions necessary for our productivity or success.
For some of us, this is how we are wired. When we are feeling good and life is better than good, finding sources of motivation is easy, our creativity is inspired, we are filled with hope, and we end up crushing our tasks and to-do lists. When we are feeling motivated, we may exercise a little longer and push a little harder.
When we are feeling motivated, we may make better choices in what we do, what we eat, and how we treat our bodies.
But what happens when we aren’t feeling so good, or when life isn’t going quite the way we want it to be going? What happens when we really don’t feel like exercising, going to work, or staying on our eating plan?