It wasn’t too long ago when everyone was at the same starting line. I don’t care what company you are at or how big your quota is. We all started from the big “goose-egg”. Sales, unlike many other careers, has very specific metrics to it. Generally, called a Quota, it’s a number the company gives you that in their estimation is how much revenue you should bring in for the given year. This number can be calculated a variety of ways and it depends on the company and their specific goals and projections for the year as a whole.
Bottom-line, You either hit it or you don’t. And all Sales reps know that going into each year.
If you’re not in Sales, that’s okay as some of the ideas I want to share can still help you think differently as you navigate a long year of work and goals that you want to accomplish.
For sales reps though, it’s pretty simple.
On the one hand, many are way behind there annual quota halfway through the year. We can come up with a number of reasons why but excuses don’t matter. Facts are facts. The numbers speak for themselves.
On the other hand, several are out ahead of the pack and well on their way to achieving and potentially overachieving on their goals.
And if you are wondering, there are a good chunk in the middle of the pack (like me!). On par and in a good position heading into the second half but still work to be done to keep pace.
So, 6 months in, which bucket are you in?
Here is the secret: it actually doesn’t matter which one it is. Because if life and sports has taught us anything it’s that there is still time on the clock. The game isn’t over yet.
Think back to the Super Bowl a few years ago when the Falcons were all but engraved the Lombardi Trophy heading into halftime. The scoreboard read 21-3 and Twitter was ablaze with reactions. That’s a stout lead especially when you are playing that well and the odds of relinquishing it are very small. Ironically, it’s a great metaphor for where we are at in the year and something all of us can learn from. Let’s observe some things that happened in that second half in hopes that it’ll help you attain your goals by years end.
Mindset is everything
Bill Belichick might be the best 2nd half coach we’ve seen in history. He is great at assessing the game and understanding where to make adjustments, if needed. However, the best thing he does (and he does this all season long) is to get his team to buy into the fact that the game isn’t over until it’s over. You must stay positive and level-headed through the good and the bad times. That consistency in mindset and focus on the steps needed to get back into the game is most likely the “X-Factor” that led to them making that historic comeback.
If you’re behind, remember what has gotten you there before. We all get into slumps but it’s the positive attitude and confidence that we can do it again that ultimately pulls us out of it. Stay focused and keep a level head and the good times will just be around the corner. If you panic and get frustrated, it will be hard to overcome future obstacles and maybe make you lose that partnership you had in your grasp because you got desperate or impatient.
Do Your Job
This is Bill Belichick’s classic mantra. Know your role and get your job done. Don’t let the noise and celebrations around you knock you off your perch. Think back to the Falcons and some of their biggest mistakes. They went away from what was working. They were running so well but yet late in the game they decided to call a pass play and had Matt Ryan drop back to throw which lead to a sack. That play-call kept them out of field goal position. However, The Patriots stuck to their game plan and never wavered. They knew there was time on the clock and they knew what made them successful all season long. It was only a matter of time before it clicked and they continued to chop away at the lead (which by the way ballooned to 28-3 late into the 3rd Quarter, if you remember.)
You know what needs to be accomplished to continue building value and guiding your future clients down the right path for them. Additionally, you can’t forget about the early part of the funnel and your prospecting efforts. You’ll win some and lose some but having a healthy and flowing pipeline will ensure that you have opportunities to finish strong. Now, if you’ve started out of the gate strong and are in a rock solid position, you can’t get complacent. You can’t think that you can take your foot off the pedal just because you’ve had a few good months. Things can change quickly if you don’t watch it. Don’t all of a sudden switch things up just because you’ve had certain results up to this point. Yes, some things may have to be adjusted but most of the time it’s small tweaks and not the grandiose ideas we like to think are going to be the difference.
Make Your Own Luck
Hey, we all need a “Julian Edelman type of catch” every now and then. I’ve noticed in my sales career we all get at least one of these a year, maybe more if we are opportunistic.
However, you have to be in the right position to get those breaks. Are you creating enough pipeline? Are you building great rapport? Are you progressing partnerships forward? Are you bringing in the right people that are making the decisions? All of these questions help you get to a position where you can succeed and sometimes the timing just happens to be right.
That’s life, it happens, and you want to be on the right side of it but the only way you get there is to put yourself in those positions. Take a good hard look at your performance and where there might be one or two small tweaks you can make. If you were being honest with yourself, where have you fallen short? Where have you whiffed on some opportunities? Start there and make some subtle movements in the right direction. Maybe you have done zero call review or role play and need to get back to the fundamentals. It could be the “X’s and O’s” on your sales process need a retooling or slight shift. It could be something else. Like I said above, you don’t need to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Have some self-awareness and make some great halftime adjustments to put you back in the game.
Just like with Football, in the end there are two things that generally win out. Talent and Work Ethic. Some only have one, few have both. But either way you need to recognize where you fall short and what you personally need to do to crush your second half, whether you are way ahead or dragging near the bottom of the pack. As cliche as it sounds, the first half of the year “is what it is” and you have to remain hyper-focused on the path ahead and do what you need to do to get to that mountain top. It’ll be different than others around you. Don’t get sidetracked. Focus on yourself and your abilities and have the mindset that when you are ringing in the New Year, you know you’ve given it everything to make this past year the best one yet.
You know what’s funny? The same excuses prospects give to sales reps on why they can’t buy towards the end of the year…
- Too busy
- Head down focused
- We’ll start fresh next year
…are the exact same excuses I’m hearing from sales teams when asked if they are continuing to learn and sharpen their skills.
Status Quo can be an ugly thing sometimes. Maybe the exact things that got you where you are (potentially behind your goal) are not going to magically help you when the pressure is on.
Enter the New England Patriots.
I wasn’t in the locker room at halftime of the Super Bowl or eavesdropping on sideline huddles but I can assure you the same things the Patriots did in the first 3 quarters to be down by an avalanche of points to the Falcons are not the same things that propelled them to victory. They game planned on the fly. They learned quickly from their mistakes. They took what the other team was giving them and strategized a winning outcome. They didn’t let their egos of “thinking they knew it all” come into play. They stayed focused on the end goal and pulled out all the stops to achieve it.
Why is this so relevant? Learning and adapting are hard for most folks. We are creatures of habit. But pushing something important off until “next year” or “until we close out the quarter” is a BS excuse. You must always be “sharpening the saw”. You must always be trying to improve.
Here are a couple easy things you can do by yourself or with your team right away…Make these MUSTS weekly. You can carve out 30-minutes somewhere on your schedule. I know it.
Action: Team up with another Rep. Record one voicemail and / or client call and listen back to it with them. Then switch. You can easily do this with the microphone on your phone.
Result: Having another Rep provide constructive feedback can help identify bad patterns, poor tonality, or even unprofessional slang you didn’t realize was happening. Building your self-awareness is extremely vital to improving your sales skills.
Action: Role play with another Rep on things you might be uncomfortable with. Prospecting a client, budget discussions, a top objection. Anything. You each play the role of the client and play an Easy, Medium, Hard scenario to get a feel for different scenarios.
Result: By practicing these beforehand it allows you to be more prepared and stay calm when these come up at game speed. That confidence shows in your voice and could help you articulate a better response.
Listen, I just rattled a few ideas off that have worked for myself and you may come up with your own that you find fun and valuable. The point is simple. Never stop practicing. Never think you know it all. Be vulnerable to feedback. All of this will reflect in your confidence and delivery on calls. More importantly, it’ll reflect more positively in your bank account.
What’s the best game or practice you’ve done with your team?
Companies always talk about their “value prop” as why they are different in the marketplace. Literally, the definition is “an innovation, service, or feature intended to make a company or product attractive to customers”. Sometimes they’ll tell you even when you don’t ask. It’s usually how they perceive their product or service and not necessarily the reason they are, in fact, different. A lot of the times their “value prop” is similar to their competitors. What I’m getting at is typical companies always think about their product or features first instead of the thing that usually is the determining factor of winning or losing…The People.
Think about it, if you’re in a very transactional business then we can assume customers are buying for price and then secondly for a small feature here or there. People are still very important even if a lot of the sales take place on a website and with little sales interaction. However, I’m speaking for larger more complex sales as it is the people you have interacting with the client that continually put you ahead of the game…not your product.
Think of the most dominate team in the NFL this century. (Full disclosure: I’m a 49ers fan). It’s not the 49ers, unfortunately. Of course, we all know it’s The New England Patriots. If we asked them what their “value prop” or “differentiator” was what do you think their answer would be? I’m betting it wouldn’t be “our defensive strategy”, “our play calling”, “our game video prep”. All, by the way, relevant and probably could be argued as ways they are better than the competition. But we all know the answer to this silly question. It’s Tom Brady. It’s Bill Belichick. It’s Bob Kraft. It’s the people that are running their business that make all the difference. Think of your own business. Products probably have some similarities with competitors but if you have people that are energized and passionate about your clients…Boy, what a game-changer.
Bob Kraft may be the best CEO in the country. He knows when to get involved and knows when to stay out of things. He puts the right people in place and he trusts his team to make the right decisions and gets involved only when his expertise can be utilized. He doesn’t appear to micromanage or talk down to his team and think that he is “all-knowing”. As Steve Jobs famously said “it doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and tell them what to do; we hire smart people so they can tell us what to do.”
Mr. Kraft embodies a true leader.
If Mr. Kraft is the CEO, then Bill Belichick is the ultimate VP of Sales. He is full business when it’s time for business. Yes, He comes off short and cold to the media and even in-game when he looks the Emperor from Star Wars but have you ever seen a person more focused on the most important items all the while “clearing the clutter” on shit that doesn’t matter. He’s the ultimate master of prioritizing things that will help his team win and eliminating wasted motion from the day. And, if you talk to any of his players over the years there is an incredible amount of trust in him to make critical business decisions. Hell, he pulls out things from players few would be able to. They seem like they would jump in front of a bus for him, as well. There is no better in-game manager when the pressure is at an all-time high.
Bill Belichick is a magnificent coach and mentor.
Now, There is no better “Top Performing Sales Professional” than Tom Brady. The parallels are uncanny. First, let’s not forgot that Tom was a 6th round pick. Your top sales reps don’t always come in with a great resume or with a ton of experience. It’s great leadership that recognizes the intangibles and gets out of the way to let that person grow. They sprinkle in coaching when necessary. Tom is focused, driven, patient, and competitive. All traits necessary to succeed long-term and not be a “one-hit” wonder. In his profession, his health and fitness are extremely important and nobody could argue the preparation he puts into each game and each offseason. Now, I personally think health and fitness is very important to sales but I’ll save that for another article. However, Sales professionals must continue to “sharpen the saw” both in-game with clients and through role play or practice at other times. You have to be willing to listen and be vulnerable to feedback in order to keep improving and sparring with your colleagues is a good way to do that. Tom Brady isn’t the same player he was when he came out of Michigan. It took years of building a trusting team around him and being able to have self-awareness of his strengths and weaknesses. Tom is the best QB in football not just because he has incredible traits that help him perform physically but he embodies leadership traits in all phases of the game; the huddle, on the sideline, at practice; etc.
Tom Brady is the ultimate “Sales Pro”.
There are certainly companies that embody these same attributes but it’s always interesting to look at an obscure use case as it confirms the fact that successful people and businesses thrive in environments that allow trust and communication to be at the top of their core values and let the abilities of their team be exposed and broadened. I’ve spoken about leadership a ton and it has many sides to it. It shouldn’t just be used as an identifier for people running the organization. Truly successful businesses do a great job of identifying leaders throughout the company and putting them in situations they can succeed and where they can help other “role players” be the best they can be.
Start valuing your assets.
…The wins will start piling up.
In my sales career, I have read many of the “top” sales books out there. Most, in my opinion, start getting boring and repetitive once you hit like chapter 3. Don’t get me wrong, there are some good ones that have helped me improve or provided some tactics, but most have been lackluster at best. With no disrespect, I think this is because I feel a lot of sales skills are learned over a lifetime from real world engagement and partially just pure DNA. Plus, long books bore the hell out of me so that could be a reason too.
Well, that got me to thinking…if I could only give one book to someone starting out in sales, what would it be?
I was having a hard time deciding the best answer to this question. Do I go with something like “The Challenger Sale” or maybe more old school like “How to Win Friends and Influence People.” But, people transitioning into sales need a book that gets them motivated and ready for the ups and downs that sales presents every day. And, as so often times it happens, I came across that book in such an unexpected place. Like we do almost every night before bed, my son and I read a book. My son picked out a book from his (ridiculously) large stack beside his bed and handed it to me. I took a glance and quickly glazed over the title and it read “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!” By Dr. Seuss.
Who has read this book? You may have read it when you were a kid (I may have) but didn’t realize its true existence until just a few short months ago. As I read over the words and curiously turned each page it became very clear that this book had to be written for sales.
If you wanted to read it, I am providing a link to a short youtube video of the book (I am a more visual person and personally the voice over by Jon Lithgow is solid) as well as a link to the text version. I’d certainly suggest to grab it from Amazon for your own collection.
I think this book does the trick for a few simple reasons:
1. It’s simple. It’s how Sales should be. Filled with stories and Human to Human conversations. Organizations continually over complicate the shit out of sales these days with their data and metrics and constant change if “something” isn’t working after like 5 minutes. Go look at the top performers in most organizations and you will find people cut from so many different cloths. It’s because the innate ability is in the DNA of that person and not some tactic in some sales book. It’s why there are only a small percentage of sales reps that are top performers. They hang their hat on human characteristics to forge them ahead and not on tactics like “make X calls a day and you’ll hit your numbers” or say “THIS” when someone objects to something, etc.
2. It’s direct and honest. You go through a lot of emotions while reading this book. You go through highs and lows, just like in sales. You also realize that a lot of the core skills you need to win at life help you win at sales; Persistence, Patience, Competitiveness, Empathy, and Going with your intuition. These, among some others, are what folks new to sales need to realize are the key to being a top performer. It’s like the old adage, “Fall down seven times and get up eight.” You just got to keep chopping through the forest and put in the hard work through the good and bad times.
3. It’s not about tactics, it’s about process. Top performing sales reps rely on processes day in and day out and then focus on using their instincts when working with different partners in different situations. There are no tactics that consistently win partnerships over a given time but understanding a process that works for you and sticking with it. Self-awareness can be a powerful thing both in understanding who you are and what makes you work to the best of your ability. One example in this book of the “waiting place” reminds me of those times when clients go dark for a while. Some folks push and become pests while others understand patience is key and that the relationship built will keep this potential client moving forward when the time is right. The reason this book is so relate-able is that it can be viewed from so many different perspectives and also allows you to read it at different points in your career and garner different meanings.
You may think I’m crazy saying that a children’s book is one of the best books to prescribe to a new sales rep and that’s fine as you are entitled to your opinion. However, if you’ve never read it or it’s been a long time then I encourage you to give it another shot. Who knows, you may just pick up something useful. What do you have to lose? At worst, if you do have kids, it should be something you read to them and explain the deeper meaning behind it.
Remember, sales is mostly about staying motivated and positive. We all know that. The motivation this book provides in its simple verbiage is all people new to sales really need to get going in the right direction. Then, like I said before, innate ability takes over. It’s sales, not rocket science. The minute we start to realize this, the minute we can get back to helping our clients succeed. That’s the ultimate goal, isn’t it?
Appreciate hearing any feedback. If this wasn’t on your list to give to a new sales rep, what is? What’s your favorite book to pass along?
As a Sales Professional, I love to cheer wins. I love to cheer new partnerships. I love when you can feel accomplishment for finding alignment and helping businesses or people out. However, I personally look at every new client I help bring on board very differently than others in the organization.
See, I’m in the trenches everyday. If you’re in Sales then you know what I am speaking of. Executives often look at numbers and metrics and the “wins” are short-lived in the “what have you done for me lately” world of sales. That’s fine. I get it. No issues whatsoever about it. But for my fellow Sales folks, it’s extremely important to analyze and digest the accomplishment. Understanding what happened in that entire sales cycle will help accelerate other deals and set you apart from the rest.
Many of you may have heard this statistic…80% of Sales are made on the 5th-12th contact with a prospect. That’s all well and good but I don’t focus on the number of contacts but the meaning behind each of those interactions. Have you put thought into that when looking back at your wins (and losses)?
Let me explain. Think of the last client you helped bring on board to your company. Now, unless you totally backed into that deal (which happens), there were probably a series of phone calls, emails, web meetings, etc. from the 1st time you ever spoke to that person until the deal was signed. (Heck, there may be even touches prior to you talking to them that got them engaged in the first place). What were those small things that happened to keep the client engaged, or let them know you were listening to their needs, or that you could help them? If you were just lobbing over useless crap then you probably wouldn’t have won that partnership now would you?
There is no “playbook” of the exact things to say or do at certain times. I don’t like books that tell you to say this exact line or that exact phrase or do this particular action and BOOM..a sale. Nope, that’s complete BS. It’s BS because every opportunity and every sale is totally different. We are dealing with human beings not robots. Different people, company size, urgency, everything!!! The way I write a follow-up creative email or call at the right time comes down to that specific client and comes down to who I am as a person. The phrasing/wording/delivery is my own. It can’t be replicated nor should it. So, if there isn’t an exact playbook for when to do things then what is there? Well, I think I’ve identified four key characteristics or mindsets, if you will, that can be very helpful when speaking or responding to a client. These are so simple you are going to fall out of your chair. If you’re conscience of these at all times then you are always laying everything on the line and being the best form of yourself for the client.
People like people who don’t try to be someone else. Be yourself and let that be the standard you sell by. If you’re corny, be corny. If you’re direct, be direct. If you’re brutally honest, be brutally honest. I’ve found that by being yourself it allows you to never have to “fake it” or remember who you were for that client. I’ve never understood why some people try to be something their not. It comes off fake and can be read very easily by a client. You are not interviewing the client to be your best friend. You are helping them out by understanding their problems and needs and finding a suitable solution. It’s business.
Awareness can be very powerful. Recognizing where you are at with a client can help you ask the proper questions at the proper time and not miss your window for that information that may be vital in helping you earn that partnership down the road or knowing it is time to cut the cord. Don’t be too assumptive and make sure you hear it from the clients mouth before marking it down in ink. Awareness in sales can help you identify if/when you should follow-up with helpful collateral, call or email, be persistent or lay-off, or know when to stop overselling and ask for the sale.
It’s okay to ask questions and peel the onion back. If you feel you are not getting a direct answer or simply wanted more depth to understand a certain pain point then ASK! Having a general curiosity around someones business needs, timeline, budget challenges, etc. can go a long way to understand where you are at with a certain client or how you might be able to help them in a different way than you once thought. Plus,(if you’re genuine) most people like that you are taking an interest in what they need and it helps identify if there is deeper alignment between your business and theirs. It’s the little information you pull out by having curiosity that can ultimately lead to a tighter bond and solidifying a partnership.
The more you truly understand your prospects pains and can “walk in their shoes” then you have a wonderful opportunity to bond together and figure out the right solution. It seems that average sales people often try to solve the symptoms while top performers try to solve the root problem. The reason top performers can solve the problem is that they are looking at the solution from a different lens, normally a microscope instead of a mirror.
These are extremely simple and realistic to put into practice tomorrow. Most of you are probably doing these already but being consistent with them can make a big difference. It’s important to ask yourself each day if you are fully investing in all of the above. If you are then you will notice immediate increases in your client relationships and will get to the finish line much quicker. Whether you win or not, well, sometimes that is not always up to you.
I appreciate any comments and hope this has helped some of you out there.
In sales, one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned is to always be prompt and timely with your clients. If you are professional and transparent in your approach with each client then that helps maintain a strong relationship throughout the entire buying process.
One of the things that have always bugged me is Out of Office email auto-responders. You know the messages I’m speaking of that go something like “currently I’m out of the office on vacation and returning…if you need assistance…”
There may be some relevance to doing this with certain jobs, but in a sales role, I think it can hurt more than it can help. Let me explain.
In 2015, where most every working professional has their phone within arms reach 24/7, it is unrealistic to think that you are “off the grid”. Think about it, the nonstop workday exists. There is no longer the ol’ 9-5 “punch the clock and get out of here” business mindset. It is clearly becoming extinct because of the vast technology advances and access to employees whenever needed.
With that said, I’ve always learned from mentors that it is professional to get back to someone within 24 hours or less when they reach out. That’s something that has stuck with me to this day and it shows a respect and professionalism to the person that reached out, whether a new prospect or a client you have been working with for months.
It is imperative to respond to clients in a timely fashion even when you may be out of the office. If you have Internet access there is no reason you shouldn’t be responding with even a simple message just to acknowledge you received the email and you look forward to speaking upon you return. Not automated but an actual human message.
I’m sure I’ll hear the “I just like to unplug and put away technology” argument and that’s fine. I’m a big advocate of that but it doesn’t mean you can’t check emails right when you get up or before bed or while your catching some rays at the beach. The reality is that one lag in response or one missed step can be the difference between bringing on a great new client or not. It’s inches, not miles that make all the difference!
We can’t fight it. Technology is here for good. That brings the positives (like having this platform to express my thoughts) and the negatives. I’m not suggesting you need to sit on the phone for your entire vacation or neglect family or friends. It’s actually quite the opposite. Spending 5-10 minutes a day keeping in touch with your clients when they reach out will go a long way to continue to grow your relationships and help form new partnerships for your organization.
Next time you’re out of the office, which path will you choose?
I’ve had the opportunity to be around some very successful business people in my life and learned many valuable things in the process. The observations are fairly simple — massive differences in where they come from and their backgrounds and upbringings. No one being exactly from the same environment that would lead you to tell if they were going to be successful or not. What is glaringly obvious, however, is the stunning similarities in regards to the character traits and where those actually originated from.
Knowing the above, I’m amazed at how similar the traits of successful business people are to young children. Personally, I’ve observed my son do many incredible things (yes, biased!) and it’s apparent that his personality is well established even at such a young age. I’m sure if you are a parent or have been around kids a lot you can certainly relate. Lately, I’ve uncovered a few key characteristics from my son that closely resemble the same traits I’ve seen in those successful individuals.
Whether it is figuring out how a toy works or his recent fascination with the earth, moon, and stars, he never stops wanting to know everything about everything. Once he picks up something new that he likes, there seems to be an endless flow of questions around that topic and a need to figure it all out. It’s fascinating to see his mind churning. Most successful individuals have this trait and they tend to not just snorkel at the surface but dive deep with the submarine and really explore to find the knowledge to a particular topic.
My son never appears to be afraid to make mistakes or clearly put his body in physical danger. He is determined to complete whatever his mind is set on without worrying about failing. If he does fail, he brushes off and is back at it again. Additionally, his ability to interact with other children and adults without being afraid resembles many successful people that have to interact with others daily or present to large groups of individuals often. It is extremely valuable to be comfortable in your own skin and have that “gift of gab”, at least I think it is.
#3 “Do it Yourself” Mentality
I miss the days when I would have to do everything for him. Those are fading fast. Now, he wants to try and do it all. Whether it is putting his jacket on, blowing his nose by himself, or the new fascination of standing up and going potty, he has confidence that he can get things done and enjoys the opportunity to complete that task. I think for most successful individuals it is that ability to go after everything you want and do whatever it takes to accomplish the task that propels people into the stratosphere of success.
Apart from wanting to do everything he can, cited in #3, my son is great at delegating. He knows when he doesn’t have the skills or knowledge to do something and isn’t afraid to ask. I don’t know how he knows but he knows. It might be asking us to read a book, finishing building his Lego blocks, or letting us put a band-aid on. I think this might be one of the most important traits of all that I have learned from other successful individuals. Focusing on your strengths and believing in others that have better skills where you are weaker is one of the key factors to scaling your success and building it for the long-term.
The moral of the story is this — too often we forget that the things that make us “Rock stars” in the world have been innate in all of us for a long time.
They’re simple. They’re pure.
It’s the fear of failure, lack of confidence, or maybe just being around negative people that seem to keep us down from reaching our goals.
Now, dig deep and find your “inner child” and go kick some ass out in the world!
You owe it to yourself, literally!
Thanks for reading! Feel free to follow me on twitter @ondrakogolf and I look forward to continued conversations!