OK, I accept that this might be a bit of a stretch.
As years go 2020 will be one that most of us would willing scratch from the annals of time.
There are few that will want to undertake the usual 'forensic examination' of the sales mistakes we made in 2020.
Even fewer will agree that the lessons learned in 2019 were applicable to the 2020 playbook. Business unusual times indeed!
That said, is it really too late to discuss some lessons that just might have an impact on your sales performance in the final days of 2020?
Truthfully, it does not matter what month or year it is, some sales lesson stand the test of time.
These are lessons we need to revisit on a regular basis.
1. Confront Your Fears.
The single thing that has the biggest impact on sales person performance is FEAR.
Fear of failure, fear of rejection, fear of "No", fear of being disliked, fear of not making enough money for themselves, for their company, fear of getting fired, fear of that they are not as smart as their prospects, fear of the telephone (telephonophobia).
The list goes on and on.
We're told to face our fears head on. That's great advice.
The best way to overcome anything that is holding us back is to continue to do it, despite how it makes us feel, until such time as how we feel about it changes.
"How you feel should not determine how you act. How you act will determine how you feel".
Get a coach. Get a counsellor. Get a mentor. Create a supportive peer group. Do what it takes to accept and address those fears.
In my opinion it's OK to be scared. As a Theme Park enthusiast I willing pay good money to be 'scared'.
What is not OK is to allow those fears to paralyze you.
2. Don't take 'Think-It-Over’s' (TIOs).
I'd rather hear "No" than "Leave it with me, I need to think it over".
I've come to learn, over time, that not a lot of thought goes into those 'think-it-overs'.
Confession time. I'm ashamed to admit that from time-to-time I allow 'think-it-overs' to creep back into my pipeline and need a sharp reminder of this rule. That's tough to admit when you consider that the first thing I teach and continue to preach obsessively is "No TIO's!".
I know that for the most part that "TIO's are just slow No's!". I also know that if I tell a prospect that "I'm going to assume it's a 'No' for now and close the file." that one of two things typically happens.
1) They agree with me. (saving me time, money, heart-ache, dignity etc.)
2) They start to argue with me. They tell me why it's not a No. They clarify how they are going to make a decision and when I am getting the decision.
Make a declaration to yourself. Decide that from today onwards you are going to eliminate TIO's from your pipeline.
If your prospects are 'thinking it over', I want you to politely, but purposefully, close the file.
Once your radar is switched on you can start to spot "think-it-overs" coming. Prospects have a range of clever ways to try and delay a buying process.
But, if I have done my job properly then I will have exposed the prospects true PAINs. These PAINs, if allowed to pervade, could have catastrophic impact on their business. As such, it would be unethical for me to leave them suffering these business critical issues.
Remember: The only person who should be selling in the early phases of a sales process is the Prospect. Selling you, the sales professional, on their needs, pains, investment capability and decision-making prowess.
I'm failing prospects if I allow them to 'think-it-over'. If they are too afraid to make a decision, it won't help that I give them more time to 'sweat over it'.
3. Stay out of the prospect’s system.
Prospects have a system. It's well defined. It's been refined over the centuries, but represents the same core elements today, as it always has.
They play their cards close to their chest!
They act motivated, interested, entranced to gather information!
They commit to nothing!
They disappear off the face of the earth!
In professional selling you have a decision to make...
Are you going to follow their system?
Or are you going to employ your own system?
...in the knowledge that 'their' system typically leads to a well-educated buyer and a salesperson with 'egg on their face'.
Remember: As soon as you give away valuable information without firm commitment as to what is happening next, you're in the prospect’s system. You’ve lost control, and your chances of getting a sale are dangerously close to zero.
Stay in control. Create environments where you and your prospects feel OK to have mature, adult-to-adult, open, honest, interactions.
To be able to achieve that I know I must stay in MY system, not the prospect’s.
4. Improve your BATting average.
Success in Sales is founded in 3 things in equal measure.
The challenge is that even when we know that, sometimes we get lazy.
The place where most sales people get lazy, quickly, is in the area of prospecting.
"Nobody likes prospecting. We just know we need to do it!"
We know that prospecting is the only truly effective way to add new opportunity to the pipeline.
We know that when we stop prospecting, consistently, that our pipeline starts to dry out.
We know that prospecting is hard. It's at least twice as hard to re-start your prospecting activity, when you haven't been doing it regularly, consistently, effectively.
Harry Kane spends hours, every day, every week, every month, every year, kicking balls at goals.
That's his job. That's his function. That's his sport. That's his passion.
He knows that the more times he kicks a ball at a goal, the more chance he has of scoring. More over, when the big games happen, for the most part, he is able to respond successfully in the moment and score.
He also knows that if he takes a month off, that getting back to effective scoring again will take time.
Do you, or your team, have a COOKBOOK of required daily/weekly sales activities?
Do you do what you need to do to be successful? Do you know what the leading indicators of your success are?
If you are endlessly re-arranging your desk, scouring LinkedIn for unicorns and leprechauns, and checking your e-mail to see if anything's happened in the last 5 minutes then you are the wrong side of the trouble-line.
Sales success depends on you executing the right sales behaviours, with the right attitude and the appropriate techniques, at the right time, with the right people.
Icarus learnt that 'winging it' won't work the hard way.
What are the lessons you've learned from this year, and how have you changed your behaviour as a result?