I am fond of saying that pro selling is the world’s greatest profession because it is fair. Sales doesn’t care if you are a man or woman, young or old, tall or short, or even your personal origin. All it cares about is whether or not you can sell. Selling offers a sublime reality: Great salespeople beat mediocre salespeople, mediocres beat slugs, slugs beat amateurs, and amateurs beach other other. All of those results are remarkably fair.
As a profession, selling has morphed remarkably throughout the past four decades. It will continue to change because technology and robotics are changing the landscape. What used to work might not any more, and what works today may not work three years from now. Real time adaptability is key.
Smart professionals know this. They stay acutely aware of behavioral trends and adapt accordingly. Selling is a behavior-influence business and if behavior is changing, the greats will change right along with it.
Last summer I worked with a company that suffered from a problematic and unexpected downturn in traditional success. They had become quite predictable to compete against, which made their service offerings appear interchangeably generic. Competitors were smart; they changed their messaging and go-to-market strategies and won more deals. Most came at the expense of my client.
The need to change was apparent. So was the need to show resilience, not panic. Resilience seems to be declining in the marketplace for many reasons. Some of these are:
- Windows of opportunity are shortening.
- Reaction times require action, not contemplation.
- The impact of technology on behavior and happiness is a game changer on both sides of the desk, the buy side and sell side.
- The lack of resilience and coping skills is increasing. This is especially startling on college campuses, where our next generation salespeople are struggling for reasons tied to primarily to parental gaps in upbringing during formative years. The lack of balance between achievement and self-awareness is too large, the result of which is causing increasing problems on campuses around the nation.
Resilience involves a “bounce back” flexibility that hinges on analytics, option evaluation, decision-making, and a willingness to act. In behavioral terms this involves emotional intelligence, critical thinking, and mindfulness. Plus, when you sell for a living, certain circumstances call for a dash of situational fortitude. The best time to learn this is before entering college. The next best time is during college. After that, the best time to learn it is as soon as you realize it’s a personal weakness.
Sales years and careers are roller-coaster rides. During the boom economy making money was easy. During the recession it was remarkably tough. During the thin ice of today’s tepid global recovery, talent will outperform mediocrity.
When things aren’t going right, don’t panic. Instead, try these four steps, which you might want to print out and post somewhere handy:
- Identify and manage your emotions, and analyze the emotions of others.
- Use an intellectually disciplined process to actively and skillfully conceptualize, apply, analyze, synthesize, and evaluate information generated by multiple fact-based (non-emotional) sources. Based on the body of information you learn, draw fact-based conclusions.
- Being mindful of self, place, and situation, evaluate your options. Argue both sides of each option, selling yourself on its pluses and minuses.
- Pick the best one and act. One of my favorite quotes came from self-made billionaire Jack Simplot during a private meeting I was lucky enough to have with him late in his life. I wanted to know how a man with an 8th grade education could build three separate billion-dollar companies. He looked at me and said, “Sometimes you just got to do it.”
What Jack meant, of course, is that dwelling on a setback gains nothing. Study what the market takes and what it gives. Trust your judgement and make things happen.
The trap for salespeople is a swirling negative vortex. Sales is tough enough when things are going okay. When things head south, the head gets crowded in a hurry. When too many negative thoughts start rattling around between the ears, refer to this list.
Trust the process. Make things happen.
Business maturity is not tied to chronological age but it’s tough to demonstrate without resilience. Regardless of what stage a salesperson finds him or herself in their career, engaging key life skills — like resilience — keeps us in a better place to perform our best.
The old cliche that “people buy from people” is true. It is also true is that people buy more from happy people. Keeping a positive, upbeat, confident outlook during the downturn of the roller-coaster will shallow the dip and hasten the ascension back to the top — where the view is sublime.
Feel free to contact me with questions or for more information.
Continued good selling,
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