As we are approaching this holiday season and the end of 2015, we should all remember that fear (while sometimes a force to propel us forward), can keep us from being successful. I decided to include a photo of my granddaughter, who is quite fearless. At the young age of not quite three, she doesn't apply thought patterns from the past, she just moves ahead like every day is anew, holding her handbag with confidence and vigor.
Reflecting on 2015 I would like to share some best practices and observations we have been so fortunate to experience, hoping that we will continue our journey together into a successful 2016.
During my trip to my hometown Vienna before Thanksgiving I experienced the attacks in Paris on European territory and it reminded me that being safe is a privilege.
What struck me was that Europeans seemed to remain rather calm after all the events, trying to maintain normalcy, going about life in defiance of the fear terrorists planned to instill. Even in Vienna, where John Kerry was meeting for the Syrian peace talks, there was hardly any visible presence of police, allowing the pre Xmas spirit to shine through. Fear is not the answer to any situation, having a sound plan and the freedom to play it out is.
Sometimes we are afraid of Success
Sales people always need to appear confident and upbeat, but they face challenges and problems, just like everybody else. Often, the outgoing facade hides some insecurities and often the result is more activity rather than applying a sound strategy. For a sales person to be successful it is important to understand the fear of failure this profession brings with it. Being afraid of success is something fairly common in the business world (or on a personal level) but in a sales environment it's a lot more transparent and easier to detect. The effects are also a lot more drastic, because so many sales people depend on successfully closing business to literally earn a living.
Sales people are measured by numbers and if we don't put numbers on the books it puts enormous pressure on us. Fear is not always an obstacle; it can also be a driver as long as we don't become frantic in our attempts to make things happen. There is nothing more annoying or aggravating than an over-eager sales person. Once we become desperate, sound strategy usually goes out the window.
The best remedy is to develop a long-term and short term SMART objectives and to stick with them (and adjust to them if necessary). It will help with anxiety and it will also make for better business decisions.
While we are talking about fear, we should also talk about panic, which is usually a result of fear. Panic often sets in when sales don't happen. Then situations happen, for example when CEOs take over sales training, or attend sales calls and start micro-managing everything and anything that has to do with sales.
They fear for their company’s survival and that's understandable. Fear is contagious and once the CEO panics, it often affects sales management and it can have a snowball effect on the sales team. Then sales people might fear that they could lose their job or that they won't be making any money.
Then sales managers do both. They panic and fear, both for their team, for their compensation and for their reputation.
The best recipe is to stay calm and on-track. Again, if there is a plan in place, success will follow. Sometimes, it's good to review the plan and maybe adjust it a bit, but to throw out the plan altogether once things don't happen immediately is a poor choice and it can lead to disastrous results. In a consultative sales environment, planning is an absolute essential.
The best sales people are those who know that "no" is the second best answer. Rejection is part of our daily life and embracing it helps us understand our target audience better. In our many years of searching and observing sales professionals, we have seen far too many sales people chase good conversations rather than closing a sale.
We like to refer to those sales people as "professional visitors", because they thrive on making connections and not on getting to the next step. The goal of every interaction in sales is to get one step closer to a sale, not to have better chats.
The best sales people are the ones who invite a "no thanks" to gauge a potential fit. There is no point in chasing after a prospect who is not a good fit. Finding out sooner rather than later that you can’t provide prospect real value gives you the freedom and time to move on to a better opportunity.
People Buy from People
That's really the bottom line. More and more articles, posts and blogs are about the fact that it's still people who are involved in the decision making process.
Remember the old adage? Know – Like – Trust. Never forget that it is people you are targeting. Make your messages stand out. Personalize your emails, don't mass market. Do research on the people you target so you can have meaningful conversations with them. Remember, that everybody has a personal life and sometimes things can go wrong, so be mindful of others.
A Lesson from my Dog
My dog Rhondo (who we rescued 6 years ago) teaches me lessons every day. While he is super focused on getting food and attention, he is also mindful, compassionate and very often more considerate than some sales people I encounter.
Unlike many sales people who call on me, Rhondo hardly ever interrupts my work day because he intuitively feels when I have time to play or when I am focused on something else. It's the way I move and the way I sound that provides hints to my dog. (Intuitive behavioral adjusting)
My dog is in my office with me every single day. He never barks, never even makes a sound. He lies on the office couch (yes, he is spoiled!) and it is not until I put my headphones back into the holder, making a gentle click, signaling to him that I might be ready for a break. That's when he starts moving. But it's not until I get up and tell him that we are leaving the office that he actually leaves the couch to follow me.
Following gentle hints from our prospects, understanding when to talk and when to listen, identifying behavioral and communication styles and just simply paying attention can be a good recipe to making your contacts feel comfortable and to building trust. And you we all know, trust is essential when it comes to building solid, long-standing business relationships.