The old sales mantra is “when you close a big deal, leverage the momentum and get another one.” Although it is good advice, I have always been one to savor the moment and celebrate a little bit. I cannot appreciate crossing the finish line if I have to start training right away. I have always enjoyed and reflected for a moment before getting busy — until now!
Last week I enjoyed one of my more significant professional accomplishments. I was the inspirational keynote at a sales conference for BASF in Mainz, Germany. BASF is the largest chemical company in the world. They invited me to speak before 300 sales professionals, board members, and executives at their biggest sales event in 2012. I was honored and humbled. I was also selected and invited.
BASF searched in Europe for a “motivational sales speaker.” They could find motivational speakers and sales speakers, but they did not find a motivational sales speaker. Frustrated with a lack of great choices, they took to YouTube and found me. After a couple of brief conversations, I was invited to be their keynote.
Six weeks later I am on a plane to Frankfurt, Germany prepared to give one of the biggest talks of my life. I have presented to larger groups. I have presented on this topic before. This time it was different.
This was a significant event for BASF. It was up to me to inspire the participants to be excited and engaged about the strategic initiatives they were learning about. I was responsible for their perceptions and mindset when they left the event that day. And, I was the only outsider they would hear from. This was both a great honor and an incredible responsibility.
I knocked the presentation out of the park. The talk went great. Among other positive comments and accolades, the senior executive responsible for my participation acknowledged that “the final part of your speech motivated the audience very much.” My assignment was to motivate the sales organization – mission accomplished!
As I bask in the glow of accomplishment and reflect on an incredible trip, I must keep this momentum going. For the first time in my professional career, I am not interested in enjoying the celebration for long. I realized an incredible accomplishment in response to a very impressive opportunity. I want more. Now, I want to do it again. As another sales adage goes, “you are only as good as your next order.” I am working on it!!
Insanity – Watching businesses stubbornly go through the painstaking process of attracting experienced sales professionals, expecting great results and getting mediocre outcomes.
If you believe that the best process for improving your sales results is to lure your competitor’s salespeople you are in for a painful lesson. It is much like free agency in professional sports. Very few free agents ever live up to the hype of expectations — they don’t have to.
First, the reality:
- Baggage: Most experienced sales professionals bring their experience to your organization, that is a plus. They also bring their bad habits, arrogance, and attitude. Because they have been lured away, they are often untouchable, unteachable, and unwilling to be held responsible. After all, you hired them because they were experienced stars, right?
- Costly: No one ever jumps to the competition without an incentive. To lure someone away, the recruiting firm must add something to the mix that makes the current situation less appealing — more money, bigger benefits, better perks. Attraction in recruiting has its costs and sales professionals know how to maximize the return on their perceived value.
- Risky: If a professional was really enjoying their life in their current organization, why would they leave? If everything was going great, why would anyone ever leave their current situation? They would leave if things weren’t all that great. If things are not all that great, why do businesses incentivize them to leave? Recruiting experienced salespeople is highly risky. You are likely recruiting the burnout, loafer or malcontent — all very risky hires.
Now, the solution:
- Intelligence: Bring intelligence into the process. Create and offer an attractive results based compensation model that rewards outcomes, not experience. If you cannot attract a high performer who, if they hit their normal numbers, will make significantly more money — they are not your type of person.
- Development: Great sports programs develop their players. They know how to recruit and develop inexperienced players and blend them in very successfully with a few well chosen free agents. The key to growth in your business is not buying high priced experienced talent, it is knowing how to discover and develop inexperienced talent.
- Management: The “want it now” mindset is killing business. Short term behaviors, at best, lead to unsustainable, short term results — no one wins. Make a commitment to be intelligent about the hiring, development and management of your team. Sales effectiveness is not solely dependent upon a team of highly experienced, well compensated sales pros. It is an effective blend of effective management, strategy, development in combination with properly defined performance incentives. Great teams require great leadership — don’t lose sight of this fact.
There are no shortcuts or easy paths to building a successful sales team. The least effective of these processes is to build up a team of all-stars that come into the organization from outside. This is a lesson in perpetual insanity.
Attract and retain — develop, manage, incentivize — hungry professionals and I guarantee business will grow and grow consistently.
Final thought: Have you ever read the resume of a sales professional who didn’t “consistently meet or exceed their revenue goals every year”? Exactly!
I was conducting a sales strategy workshop yesterday with about a dozen very successful CEO’s and we started talking about credibility and integrity in sales and in relationships, in general. One of the participants commented on the refreshingly authentic and honest outcomes associated with being able to tell someone “they don’t know” when asked a question they could not answer.
I have found that there are few people comfortable enough to look a client or prospect in the eye and honestly say “I don’t know.” While we can have the debate about the value, impact or effect of this statement in a subsequent blog, I wanted to use this as an example of having the confidence, the integrity, and the respect of the relationship to be honest.
When its comes to being reliable, trustworthy, or respected there is nothing that destroys a relationship quicker and in a more profound way than someone who has lost their credibility. Far too few people understand the value, importance, and impact of being truthful, direct, honest, forthright in their business relationships.
- Instead of telling someone what they need to know, we try to tell them what we believe they want to hear.
- Instead of saying I really don’t know the answer to that question, they try to find some way to answer it anyway.
- Instead of saying this what I can and cannot do, they try to make a commitment they have no earthly idea how to honor it.
- Instead of respecting the relationship by following through, they disrespect the relationship and fail to deliver.
Here are my five tips for making certain that, if nothing else, you maintain your credibility when it comes to requests, inquiries, and commitments:
- Make the difficult call: We have all had situations where what we thought we could do, we found out later we couldn’t. Before anyone is surprised, disappointed, or frustrated proactively make the call and own up to the error.
- Honor your commitments: If you tell someone you are going to do something, do it. Unless you are dead or in a coma in the hospital you are responsible for fulfillment. If something interrupts your ability to honor that commitment, recruit someone to own the outcome or call the client and tell them the truth about your screw up.
- Don’t ever repeat your mistakes: I learned a long time ago when I was in sales in New York City, my integrity and credibility sometimes bought me one get out of jail card. You will never get a second chance to make a mistake. If you make one and survive it, make certain you do not make that mistake again or make any mistake with that client again.
- Tell the truth: Your customers, friends, and associates do not need you to make them feel good by your telling them what they want to know. They want the truth about a situation. Tell them what they need to know — dont’ sugar coat it, don’t blame someone else, and make certain you follow through on your commitments.
- Be prepared and proactive: Whatever the situation, there will always be the chance that something goes wrong. When it does, own it, fix it, and communicate both the problem and the plan to your client. Most importantly, make sure you share this information with the client before they call you. (remember tip #1). If they have to call you to get the bad news, you have lost all kinds of credibility.
Nothing destroys a great relationship quicker than having a customer or client feel that they can’t trust or count on you. Once you lose credibility with a customer, it is a long, hard, and painful road to getting it back. You are better off making certain you don’t lose it in the first place.