Category Archives: Sales
When I first heard this statement with respect to a professional hockey team’s play, I stopped in my tracks. On the surface, it seems like the same concept spun two different ways. Or is it?
Playing to win exudes confidence. There is nothing that can get in the way of the team and victory. They execute the game plan to perfection, and do whatever it takes to achieve their goals. Mistakes may still happen, but they get back on track in a timely fashion. It is clear in their body language that nothing less than success will be accepted by everyone.
On the other hand, the team playing not to lose exudes tentativeness. Their primary goal is to not make mistakes and look foolish in front of teammates and coaches. In their minds, if they don’t make any mistakes, they should win. On paper that makes sense. Those who follow sports hear this often, but if the other team plays an all round better game, you will still lose. Body language supports the theory that they are just trying not to screw up, and it shows.
Take a moment and step back to think about your current sales or business role. Do you always feel like you are on top of your “game” and nothing can stop you? If you do, congratulations! If we are honest with ourselves, most of us go through phases when we lack confidence and just feel like everything we touch turns in to…. well not gold.
Do you notice when things are going well, mistakes and other challenges in your role do not take as big a tole on you? It seems no matter the size of the setback, you can move past it in record time. Now turn the tables. When things are not going well, and confidence is low, even the little things seem like huge issues. The world seems to be against you, and it is nearly impossible to get out of the funk.
- Are you playing to win, or playing not to lose?
- Are you afraid to make mistakes, and worry how it will look to teammates and management?
- Or do you understand that mistakes happen, learn from them, and move on as quickly as possible?
- Do you approach your role everyday with confidence, a bounce in your step, and the mindset of “I can do this?”
- Or do you plod along as you always have; do the same things that you have always done, and just try not to screw up?
“Playing not to lose” is a career limiting decision (CLD). You will feel safe, and your results may be consistent, but your true potential will not be achieved. If you just sit back and watch, you will witness others getting all the glory!
“Playing to win” is a mindset. The Edmonton Oilers, New York Yankees, New England Patriots & Manchester United have not won all of those champions with the attitude of playing just to survive. Playing to win is imperative in anything that you do. It is an attitude that should make you feel unstoppable throughout your career.
“You miss 100% of the shots that you don’t take” - Wayne Gretzky, ex National Hockey League Super Star.
My sales spin is,
“If you don’t ask, there is no chance that you will get the answer you want”.
Confidence in the sales profession is paramount to success, but does not happen over night. If you are not in sales, please keep reading. This post has merit for whatever you may be “selling” in your personal or professional life. We have all been selling and negotiating from the moment that we could speak as toddlers!
Confidence allows people opportunities in life that they may not experience if they are tentative and uncertain. When people feel good about themselves, are not afraid to ask questions and involve themselves in potentially challenging situations, they will generally like the outcomes.
Do not mistake confidence for arrogance though. I have seen both, and one is very appealing in business and personal interactions. The other… well not so much!
When you combine confidence with most (or all) of the characteristics below in sales and/or life, very cool things can happen!
- Driven to succeed
- Independent worker and thinker
How did I know if somebody would make it in sales?
I have seen a lot of outside sales reps (retail reps too) come and go during my career. It took me a few years to really get a sense of what the signs were if they would succeed. I was quite certain most of the time, after our first couple of meetings.
What typically tipped me off?
- How they carried themselves (do they have a bounce in their step?)
- Dressed neatly (not necessarily the most expensive clothes) and cared about how they looked
- Solid handshake
- Maintained good eye contact
- Engaged well in conversation
- Wanted to learn / Inquisitive
- Enthusiastic / Excitable
- Personable / Outgoing
If you take a moment to digest that list, many of those attributes can be directly related to being confident. Imagine how different that list would be if you did not feel good about yourself and your abilities?
I urge you to start networking with people who are working towards similar goals if you are not already. It has become common knowledge that you start to portray similar characteristics to the 5 people who you are the closest with. Work on feeling more confident in areas of your personal and professional life that you don’t feel as comfortable in as soon as possible.
For me, getting up in front of crowds to speak was frightening for many years due to my stutter, and now there is nothing I would rather do. It was a long road, but I am glad that I am getting closer to where I need to be thanks to a strong support group of family, friends and Toastmasters.
Confidence does not happen over night, and you cannot push a “magic button” to change how you feel about yourself and your abilities. If you don’t try, you will never know what the outcome could have been. Once you “flip the switch” to knowing you will succeed, and not being afraid to fail, you will see positive changes in your life.
When I was recently preparing a speech to up and coming sales reps, I realized that I had compiled a list of selling tips that I wanted to share today. Here are the best of the best:
#1 Consult, Don’t Regurgitate – better to listen to your prospect and find out what they really need, rather than “barf out” everything you know
#2 Share, Celebrate and Support – be a fantastic teammate!
#3 Manage Time, Plan and Prioritize – not the “sexy” part of selling, but crucial to success
#4 Fly Under The Radar, Don’t Be “On It” – if your boss does not have to follow-up with you about things not getting done, that is a good thing!
#5 The Path of “Most Resistance” Pays Dividends – anyone can do the easy stuff, but tough it out and do the difficult (or less desirable tasks) day in and day out
#6 Customers And Prospects Are Human Beings Too – get to know them on a personal level, make notes and show that you care about them as people too
Keep these close by and refer back to them when you need a gentle reminder of what it takes to succeed in sales!
Good luck this fall selling season!
I planned a Saturday golf game with my friends last spring. I was very excited because it was my first game of the year, and I really needed some time to unwind with the guys.
I ended up shooting one of the top 10 games of my life. I reflected that evening on why I had done so well, and there was a very simple answer. I was relaxed. I had only played two rounds of golf all winter, so my expectations were low. I just wanted to have fun, and did not think about scoring.
I started well, and kept the momentum going throughout the entire round. Typically (due to my infrequent play) I will have a great front nine, then a rough back nine, or vice versa. But this game was consistent throughout. I still had some bad shots, but was able to recover quickly.
With my golf game, relaxation and good shots breed confidence. I heard a humorous golf analogy many years ago and I often think of it when I am struggling.
- Pretend the golf club is a tube of toothpaste. What happens when you squeeze the tube of toothpaste too hard?
- Well of course too much toothpaste comes out!
- If you are squeezing the golf club too hard, inevitably you are going to make more bad shots than normal.
What happens if you have a bad day of sales calls, or perhaps a bad week or month in general? We all have confidence and feel great when things are going well; that is the easy part. The true test of character is how we respond when things don’t go our way.
Sales people and golfers need to have short memories. If you are “squeezing the tube of toothpaste” too hard on your sales calls and during the sales process, things may not go according to plan. If you feel under pressure to close more sales, you may “squeeze the entire tube of toothpaste” out on each call! You press, you are not yourself, your presentations and discussions have no flow, and you are off your game in general.
I asked my friends about their golf game that day last spring, and they said that it was not uncommon to have 10-15 stroke swings from one nine-hole round to the next. It proves that we have the ability to bounce back if we stay focused and regain confidence.
As usual, I watched the Master’s Golf tournament in April of 2011, and it was more exciting than normal. There were 7-8 golfers in the hunt until the last few holes. I am always amazed how golfers can keep outside distractions to a minimum and just focus on the next shot. Their focus is superhero-like, and they handle pressure remarkably well.
Rory Mcllroy was in first place after three rounds, the proceeded to shoot the worst final round in Master’s history. After the last round he said that he will learn from the experience and knows that he will be in the running for many more major championships down the road. His positive attitude was impressive.
To show his resilience, he came back at the next major tournament (US Open) and destroyed the competition by nearly 10 shots. That is an incredible example of putting a negative experience in the past, learning from it, and moving on quickly.
Sales and golf have many similarities which I look forward to exploring more in the future. Relaxation, confidence and a general sense that you will excel are all keys factors while “working” on the golf course and in a sales territory.
- Do you find that you are squeezing the tube of toothpaste too hard in your sales or business role?
- What factors contribute to these feelings “invading your body”, and making things more difficult in the field than they should?
If you are struggling right now, reflect back to when things were going very well, and you were full of confidence. Make some notes about those times, and do more of that!
Summers are short in Northern Canada, so I have to make the best of the warm weather and longer days!
I actually do sell in the summer, and just wanted to get your attention with a catchy title
Here are the top 5 things that I like to do with customers and/or prospects when most of my competitors are on the golf course:
- Drop by later in the day with cold drinks and snacks. Most people are stuck at their desks just counting down the minutes until they get to leave and enjoy the sun too!
- Take them out to lunch! Make sure to sit on a patio and take in the great weather.
- Attend an outdoor sports game, concert or other outdoor event. No better way to get to know them than enjoying these activities together
- Plan a trip with key customers. Every time I hear about customer trips they rave about the good fun for years to come!
- Have a “there are still people to sell to” mentality vs. “everyone is off ’til September so I will just coast” mentality.
These business building activities will pay dividends in the long run. Nobody likes being stuck in the office when the weather is balmy!
I am sure there are many other great ideas that I am missing. But the key is to:
- get creative
- build rapport
- get sales!
You don’t want to risk your competitors having all the great ideas!
Managing, coaching and/or leading a team can be a very rewarding role when things are going well. There’s a method to the madness in motivating and inspiring team members. When things don’t go well, the accountability has to fall back on the manager, and tough questions need to be asked. One of the questions that has always intrigued me is,
“Do you know your team members?” (yeah, yeah I do!)
“Do you really KNOW them?”
I heard a story once about a sports star who was allegedly upset that his General Manager did not phone or visit him while he was in the hospital recovering from surgery. This caused a great debate – whether the manager should have had to make personal contact, or if it was satisfactory that his support team did the checking in.
I had a strong opinion on the situation initially, and concluded that the player was another over paid athlete who was whining and wanted a “big hug” from his adoring fans! A radio announcer quickly put it in to perspective for me. He said that although it was ridiculous to expect a General Manager to make calls to a player in the hospital, he needed to know his players. If all it took to keep a multimillion dollar player happy was an occasional phone call or visit to the hospital, was it really that big a deal? Maybe he only had to do things similarly with a handful of players, but it would have kept harmony within the team. Speculation ensued and the player ended up being let go in a very public dispute.
“The Blind Side” movie provided another great lesson about knowing players. A high school football coach had an offensive lineman on his team who was having difficulties blocking opposing players. The coach got frustrated, and did not know how to teach the player to block better, and protect the quarterback. The player’s mom was watching that practice, and went on to the field and gave some insight to her son. She knew that he had scored very well on testing at school when the topic was protection. She gave him examples of how he had protected the family and others close to him over time, and how it related to the football team concept. It really sparked something inside him.
From that point on, he did an incredible job protecting the quarterback. The mom commented to the coach that he needed to know his players better. Every time the player struggled and was not blocking as well in the future, they just had to remind him again that this was his “football family” and he needed to protect them too!
In today’s business environment, now more than ever, Sales Managers and Executives need to understand the strengths, weaknesses, and tendencies of each of their team members. In the sales profession, some reps will be better at presenting, others will have more technical knowledge, and some will be customer relationship building standouts.
Work your butt off to understand the different personalities that you are managing, and adjust your style when dealing with each of them . Focus on assisting them in areas of weakness, and capitalize on their strengths. Well-rounded reps will be much more successful on your teams in the long run than those who are one-dimensional.
Managers need to be prepared to change-up their leadership strategies based on their team member’s needs. If your team genuinely knows that your number one priority is their success, life at work should already be good if not great. If things aren’t going well with your team, ask yourself:
- How well do I know each individual?
- What motivates them day-to-day?
- What are their long-term goals?
- What can I do to get to know each person better?
- How can I further their career development? (i.e. one-on-one coaching, encouraging continued education, job shadowing, mentoring)
Taking time to get to know your employees gives you valuable insight into leading your team effectively. Happy employees are more productive which is a win-win for everyone.
If you are sales representative, own a business or even write a blog; analyzing your sales figures and other key data is imperative for success.
You don’t have to do it every day, especially if you are not “a number’s person“!
I fell in love with math early on in elementary school, but I would not consider myself to be a “number’s guy”. Some are, some aren’t; and that is ok.
I must admit, I have become a bit of a blogging data addict!
I love to look at my blog stats.
- Unique visitors per day
- Top commenters
- Total views
- A map of the world with all the countries represented by my visitors (my personal favourite)
But I caution you…. don’t become obsessed with the numbers. I have seen it time and time again in the sales profession where reps get caught in to the trap of sitting at their desk most of the day analyzing too many reports.
Don’t get distracted from the key mission which is to SELL and grow your network!
I like to simplify processes in my professional and personal life. Below is an example of how I would spend at least one hour per month analyzing my sales territory numbers:
- Identify where business is up, find out what is working and do more of that!
- Identify where business is flat (no growth), find areas to improve and focus on that
- Identify where business is down, create recovery plans and carry out those strategies ASAP
See – no big deal! This does not have to take hours per week or month staring at paper.
Remember – it is your territory, your business, or even your blog.
If you don’t know what is going on with it, how can you expect to exceed your goals?
I love to talk. I used to talk anyone’s ear off who would listen to my long-winded babble!
The best man at my wedding described me to a “T” in 2005:
“Tim is like a remote control. All you have to do is say hello to him and he is off to the races. He changes topics quickly liked changing channels on a remote control.”
But I had to change. I had to change big time! People in business and personal lives don’t want to hear you blow hot air all day. They want to be engaged and get talking. They want to talk about themselves and feel like others are really listening to them!
That was me for the longest time. I still struggle with this every day. But I am getting better, and certainly focus on others taking the lead in conversations now with my open-ended questions.
Every time I get off track I think of Frank Tyger’s fabulous quote,
“Be a good listener. Your ears will never get you in trouble.”
I must admit something. “Hot Calling” is not a new and improved way to cold call. I took a door-to-door sales role in the summer heat of Australia on a backpacking trip in 1998. I called it “Hot Calling” in my head to make it sound more appealing! Everyone I told about this job after the fact thought I was crazy, but I explained to each of them how enjoyable the experience ended up being.
I needed some extra money when I was traveling the South Pacific. I ended up getting a job with a company promoting children’s encyclopedia programs. I did not realize the amount of door knocking and setting up of appointments that I would be required to do. My job was to secure follow-up visits with families, then more experienced sales reps would come back later and try to close the sale on a complete set of books. Yes, Google was still very new at the time!
A fellow backpacker told me the day before I was to start the job that they had a horrible experience performing this role, and I should quit immediately. I ended up giving it a shot anyways. I was planning on making new friends and having a great time. I went in with a positive attitude, and hoped for the best.
I trained at head office in Sydney and soon realized that I was in for an interesting journey! Thoughts of my stutter were front of mind, due to the nature of the role. What better situation to get nervous in then when somebody opened their door, and I had about 10 seconds to convince them that they should invite me in. I sucked it up, and continued with the training.
The managers made a point of having us role play door-to-door scenarios every day before we went in to the field. Initially I thought it was a waste of time, and I was disappointed that it took me away from the pool. It was our warm-up period, and would typically be done in the mid afternoon. We would walk the neighbourhoods later in the day when it “cooled off”.
The most important lesson I learned from this experience was how to handle rejection; and there was a lot of it! I had to be quick on my feet, handle their objections swiftly, with the goal of being invited in for a conversation. It was a positive step for them to open their door, but an entirely different challenge of getting them to commit to a future presentation.
Other skills like persistence, keeping positive and being enthusiastic were pivotal too. Each door was a new one, so I always put the previous one out of my mind quickly. A sale could be waiting for me at the next house, and I always had to be at my best.
Another key attribute that I worked on was focus. It was difficult to stay focused when it was still 30 degrees Celsius or warmer when I was working, but I made it through. I would often ask people for water, run through sprinklers, and wear a large cricket hat to protect me from the sun. In 6 weeks on the job, only one person would not give me a glass of water when I asked!
The team lived just like a big family. On a weekly basis, we all had specific chores to fulfill like cleaning the pool, buying groceries, and cooking for the team. Whatever needed to be done, we all pitched in to get keep the house and our “adopted family” running. You can bet that we let team members know when they slacked off from their responsibilities.
As I look back now, the daily role play for warm up was the key to success. It was like athletes preparing for a game. They need to warm up to get physically and mentally ready. As I practiced regularly, and knocked on more doors, I became more comfortable by the day. As time passed, my stutter was less of a consideration as I spoke to people during the pressure packed opening greeting.
The management team did a wonderful job motivating a group of young adults from around the world to do a less than glamorous job. We learned how to do one of the most difficult sales roles by staying positive, plugging away, and most importantly co-existing with team members that were strangers when we moved in together.
To this day, every time somebody says, “You did what?” when I describe the job, I am more than happy to share the story of my “Hot Calling” experience “Down Under”.
- Have you ever door knocked during your sales career?
- If not, have you have cold called face-to-face or on the phone?
- What did you learn from the experience as you reflect back now?
I was attending my first trade show with a company many years ago. I had just committed to move to a new city and was very nervous. Everyone was friendly, but I felt alone, and was unsure if I had made the right decision.
A fellow sales rep then approached me unexpectedly late in the first day, and took me under his wing for the rest of the event. He made me feel welcomed, and instantly put me at ease! For the next four days I had somebody that I was comfortable around, and could ask them any questions, no matter how silly they seemed at the time.
That event inspired this list, and I have always remember my colleague fondly for helping me out!
#1 Ride-A-Longs With Top Performing Sales Reps – I was just there to observe, nothing more. I once flew across the country and spent one day each with the top two performers in an organization.
#2 Working With A Mentor – It was great to have somebody to go to when I needed them, and not feel like I was being a bother. Helping me when necessary was part of the “mentor-newbie deal”.
#3 Joints Calls With A Sales Manager or Senior Sales Rep – I may have taken the lead on a call, but it was comforting to have them there if I needed any “back-up”. In the event a call was more complex, they would take the lead, and I would be there for support
#4 Guaranteed Salary and/or Commission As A New Rep – This was a game changer for me! It took all the pressure off at the start of a new role, and I could focus on learning the complete job for the foreseeable future. I had a guaranteed salary in one role for the first year and my results far exceeded budget!
#5 I have several other thoughts, but wanted to leave this one up to you. In your experience in sales, or what you have witnessed being involved in business, what else has assisted new sales reps to get acclimatized in their role?