I hate to lose. And I like people who hate to lose. I hate losing more than I enjoy winning (and I enjoy winning). I’ve learned that one key commonality of great athletes, sales professionals and businesspeople is that they HATE to lose.
I bring this up with the recent behavior of Bill Belichick, who refused to grant a 45 second interview to a CBS reporter, following the Patriots loss to the Ravens in the AFC Championship. Belichick’s behavior has been universally panned. He’s been called a sore loser, arrogant and worse. And while I certainly don’t condone his behavior, I admit I empathize with it.
I was struck by the USA Today column on the subject (link above):
No coach who’s experienced as much success as Belichick is a good loser. Their determination and competitiveness is what fuels their greatness. But what of all those coaches who seem like good losers after big defeats? They’re just better at faking it.
Bill Belichick is an ornery, often arrogant personality. He’s also an innovator with an undisputable record of success. And (while this probably won’t win me any fans) I must admit that I respect his actions just a little bit.
When a salesperson loses a sale they believed they should have had, I want to see them angry and upset. I certainly don’t want to see them laughing and asking when happy hour starts.
When a business fails to achieve its goals for the quarter, I want a CEO who is pissed; not one who’s hanging out and treating it as business as usual.
While it’s not a popular sentiment, it is this very non-social, unbalanced reaction to losing that pushes one to work a little smarter, try a little harder and to find new ways to break through.
So, yeah, Bill Belichick is a sore loser, but he’d also be one helluva salesperson.
I’m a big fan of quotes, and I’ve got a love/hate relationship with goals. So the two collided when I came across this quote from David Ogilvy: “Don’t bunt. Aim out of the ballpark.”
My feelings with the quote hit “Perfect Storm” status when you add that I’m a hitting coach in college baseball. One that firmly believes that every one of my players needs to be able to implement the bunt flawlessly. In baseball, bunting is called small ball, and it can be quite powerful.
All you need to do is look at the San Francisco Giants who have won two of the last three World Series with solid fundamentals and small ball, beating two teams that relied on the ability to “hit it out of the park” in the Texas Rangers and Detroit Tigers.
I have no problem whatsoever, and often encourage, that entrepreneurs, executives and salespeople should set stretch goals. I even go so far as to say that stretch goals should scare you.
However, I’ve also learned that stretch goals can be as big a contributor to the problem as they are to the solution. “Aiming out of the ballpark,” may push you, but it also encourages you to try to skip steps. Why hit singles and doubles when I can just go for the home run?
If I’ve learned one important lesson about success, is that it’s boring. Sustained success is about getting the fundamentals right, doing the little things, and consistently moving things forward – bunting, if you will.
So, if I may be so bold as to alter the famous David Ogilvy’s quote:
Aim out of the ballpark…and bunt.
Welcome to 2013! Now, what are you going to do with it? As the famous quote says, time is the great equalizer.
The new year is a great time to contemplate what’s ahead, but it’s also a trap. With everything fresh a euphoric feeling of the possible sets in. But, the reality is that the actions you take, and how you take those actions will have far more impact in determining where you are at the beginning of 2014, than any vision, plan or goal.
And, the reality is that you don’t have that much time to do it. When you factor in time off, the administrative issues you must deal, and general tasks you need address to keep things moving, half of your year is already gone.
So, I ask you again…what are you going to do with it? How disciplined will you be to ensure that you bring purpose, discipline and focus to the actions you take?
While time is the great equalizer, choice is the great differentiator. Strive to make better choices this year, and the results will take care of themselves.
Looking to get a jumpstart?
- You can watch our webinar: The 5 Secrets To Getting Your Year Off To A Fast Start.
- You can download our workbook: Developing a quick, easy and effective strategic plan.
Last week I was speaking before a CEO group. The leader of the group started the meeting off with a conversation about fear. It was quite interesting to hear 12 successful business leaders talk about their relationship with fear.
As I listened I found myself thinking about how fear impacts an individual’s ability to do what they know they must do. I realized that we all deal with fear in general, and a fear of commitment specifically.
What is it that holds us back from fully and totally committing? I see this challenge every day as we work with companies and their sales team to implement new approaches and develop new skills. Even when people know that what they’re doing isn’t working, or when a new idea, approach or goal promises precisely what we believe we want, it’s a struggle, fraught with fear, to fully commit.
The best analogy of this commitment fear is the trapeze. To do your jump, you must first let go of the bar you have (safety) and believe that the next bar will be where it’s supposed to be, when’s it’s supposed to be there (and that you’ll arrive at the designated point as well). The moment you let go of the bar you have, there is no turning back – even if you change your mind.
I think that’s what we all deal with. What if we commit fully, only to find out the new idea isn’t any better? Or, what if I’m not able to deliver my end of the bargain, will I be worse off than I started?
How can we get comfortable with fear? A few years ago, I wrote a post,Play in the Fear, that gives the best approach. We need to learn to play again. Take small risks, do things a little differently. Try things quickly. Get a little uncomfortable, every day. We need to stop deal with fear as an event, and instead make dealing with fears a part of our status quo.
I’d love to know what you do to deal with, and manage, the fears you and your team face. Leave a comment or send me an email.
This post originally appeared on BizBeat, The Washington Business Journal’s business blog.
It’s the stuff of legend and mythology. The stories of Steve Jobs, Thomas Edison, Joe Montana and many more make the journey sound so exciting.
Over the last 25 years, I’ve learned a very important lesson about success – achieving it is boring. The benefits are great, but the process to achieving it is painful. Dealing with the boredom is the reason so few people reach their potential.
The problem is that the stories about success are dynamic and exciting. These stories make the legend and mythology of business and sports. After all, look at how much fun Steve Jobs was having as he introduced one game changer product after another. Who doesn’t want to be Derek Jeter, with the fun and the fame?
However, the truth of how they got, and stayed, there is quite different. It required the focus, discipline and commitment to work at the little things, and to do the things that few others do.
I see this every day in all facets of life. Whether I’m working with executives and entrepreneurs of growing businesses, salespeople trying to compete in today’s environment, or coaching the hitters for my college baseball team, everybody wants to skip the boring stuff and jump right to the fun stuff. I struggle with it myself.
In baseball everybody wants to get the game-winning hit, but few want to take 200 swings a day (for years) off the tee to work on the mechanics of good hitting. Every salesperson loves making the closing presentation, but few are willing to do the homework to study and practice their craft. Executives love strategizing and visioning, but few realize that driving business growth is about staying focused on the same few things, day after day after day.
Preparing for success is fun, but that once things get going the process can get boring quickly. Even worse, it gets frustrating and difficult. Nothing happens as fast as we want. Since we’re all biologically programmed to avoid pain, most people decide that “there must be a better way,” and start the process all over again.
Whenever I see this happen, I always think of the conversation I had with one of the hitters I coach. He told me that he had figured out one of the things he was doing wrong and he told me, “Coach, I think it’s really going to help. Maybe if I spend the next two weeks working on it, everything will be good.”
What was sad, is that he really felt he was being patient. Unfortunately, he still needs to learn that success is a lifetime pursuit.
As I was watching the US women win their opening game of the 2012 Olympics, I found myself thinking a lot about success and achieving what I like to call .1% performance. In honor of their effort, I put together a set of posts that I’ve written on the topic. You can download it here … I hope you enjoy it.
What profession is best suited for a liar?
How do you know when a salesperson is lying?
It’s unfortunate that salespeople have become the butt of so many jokes. In the past I’ve written about pests, peddlers and Demand Creators, and shared the advantages to being a Demand Creator.
As the world continues to move forward from the deep recession, there are still not enough companies that are building the organizational capability necessary to consistently grow profits. Selling, on the whole, is not creating the value necessary to support higher margins and faster profit growth for small and mid-market companies.
Ineffective sales efforts are actually contributing to:
- Greater commoditization
- Lengthening sales cycles
- Greater price pressure
As I’ll be sharing next week in our free webinar on The 7 Steps to Shortening The Sales Cycle, businesses need to create a new path and implement new approaches to sales. Now, more than ever, it takes an organization to sell effectively, not just a salesperson.
Done right, your sales effort is the most powerful, leverageable resource to accelerate revenue and profit growth, and to increase the value of your business. Building the capability enhances your brand, allows you to bypass competition and serves as a virtually insurmountable competitive advantage.
Selling properly requires that you stop focusing on making a sale. Instead, you need to focus on being relevant, helping your customers achieve their objectives and teaching your prospects how to improve their worlds.
It means slowing things down a bit, (really) putting customer’s interests first and understanding that sales, profits and business value are the result of a proper focus, and cannot be the focus.
When you realize that the job of sales is to help, and you build the system to make that happen, suddenly the sales process becomes easy.
I’m a fan of top performers. I love learning about them, figuring out what makes them tick and translating that into actionable ideas that can allow others to achieve top performance. I call this .1% Performance.
I remember learning about this concept from an ex-Blue Angels pilot, who shared the amazing things he learned and did as a Blue Angel. When you think about it, to be a Blue Angels pilot you have to be the best of the best…the top 1% of the top 10%. The same is true if you want to make it to “the show” in professional sports, or virtually any endeavor.
A while back, I was talking with a client/business owner about the need for salespeople to master the new paradigms of business. He asked me, “Just how important is it, really, to master it to the level your talking about?” My response to him, was that it depends on what game he wanted to play.
The challenge I’ve always had, is demonstrating visually what .1% Performance requires. I can easily point to the results of it, I just couldn’t articulate and show the real effort required to attain it. Until now.
My top sales coach, David Fletcher, shared this video with me. It comes from TCU’s baseball program. Every time I watch I get motivated. I think you’ll agree the attitude and effort shown here applies to more than just sports. My two favorites lines from the video:
- What is each day but a series of conflicts between the right way and the easy way?
- Just make sure [your goal] is something you want, because the easy way out will always be there, ready to wash you away.
As many readers know, I coach college baseball. Last week the coaching staff got together because our team had hit little bit of a slump. We were trying to figure out why we had so much talent, but that talent wasn’t translating into the results that we expected on the field.
As the conversation progressed, I couldn’t help but get the déjà vu feeling that I had this conversation before, in the sales management arena. So often, too often for many small and mid-market companies, sales people who have talent and core ability to be extremely successful, yet they never meet their potential. This is a riddle that has confounded managers, trainers and consultants for years.
As we discussed the issue about the team, we came to the realization that not enough of the players truly hate to lose. And when I say hate to lose I don’t just mean that they don’t like losing, I mean hating to lose more than you enjoy winning.
Top performers in virtually any endeavor, share a common attribute – they loathe losing. Be it basketball, football, baseball, business or sales, top performers work hard, pay attention to the little things, learn and constantly improve because the feeling of a loss is simply detestable.
Everybody enjoys winning, and there are few people that I’ve met that dislike losing. The question to ask when assessing your salespeople is just how much, and what, are they willing to do to stay out of the loss column.
A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a post about how losing is part of the growth and success process. Since that post, I’ve received a lot of feedback. The vast majority of it has been absolutely on point and I’ve been excited to hear some of the stories that have been shared with me.
The post, however, is not an excuse to accept losing. When interviewing, managing and motivating salespeople, be on the look out to determine which camp they fall in – the ones who just enjoy winning or the ones that abhor
This book review originally appeared in Baltimore, Washington and Philadelphia SmartCEO Magazine.
I’m often asked what I believe is the most important trait to succeed in sales or business. Anyone who knows me knows my answer – business acumen. Today, more than ever, those individuals who possess business acumen have a tremendous advantage over those that don’t.
This is especially true in sales. It’s funny (sad really), but if you were Rip Van Winkle having just awakened from a 50-year sleep, and you walked into most small and mid-market sales organizations, you probably wouldn’t be able to tell the difference.
All too often, sales reps are making the same boring phone calls and making the same mindless pitches chasing fewer and fewer dollars. Sales managers track the same activity numbers that have absolutely no correlation to sales success whatsoever.
Sales training budgets have increased much, and, what’s worse the focus of that training is still primarily on product knowledge and some version of sales skills. But, ask yourself this: Have the trillions of dollars that companies have invested in sales training, salesforce automation and marketing really paid off?
The results of the last four years clearly answer that question – they haven’t! If you look at any meaningful measure of business success, the news is bad. Profit margins, return on equity, and assets are down. Sales costs are rising, and price pressure is at an all time high as procurement departments have seized unprecedented power in buying decisions.
As an executive, you should remember two quotes that should be at the top of your mind when you look at your sales efforts:
- The problems we face today cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them – Albert Einstein
- The definition of insanity is to do the same thing again and again, and expect a different result – Thomas Edison
It is crucial that you stop, and ask yourself what are the critical components that will allow your salespeople to be insanely successful? Don’t stop at the clichés like personality or persistence. Sure, those characteristics are important, but they do not cause success. There are just as many (or more) personable, persistent salespeople that fail as those that succeed.
If your products and services require a meaningful investment from your customers or you claim to make a significant impact on customer’s results, there are two critical pieces that absolutely must be present: business acumen and judgment. These characteristics are really flip sides of the same coin, as good judgment comes from business acumen. If you want to break free from the commoditized treadmill, where so many small and mid-market companies find themselves, you must develop business acumen in your salespeople.
Kevin Cope, author of Seeing The Big Picture: Business Acumen to Build Your Credibility, Career and Company and founder of Acumen Learning, defines business acumen as the “keen, fundamental street-smart insight into how your business operates and how it makes money and sustains profitable growth, now and in the future.”
Businesses are complex, and the issues they’re dealing with face greater and greater complexity. One small problem or change can have a ripple effect through the entire company. The only way you can successfully cut through this complexity is to understand the critical drivers of a business. Cope point out five: cash, profits, assets, growth and people.
To get the action (and margin) that you most likely want for your products and services, your salespeople must be able to influence real decision makers in organizations. Seeing the Big Picture, accurately points out five abilities needed to do this:
- See the “big picture” of the organization – how the key drivers of a business relate to each other, work together and produce profitable growth, and relate to the “job” your product/service does.
- Understand important company communication and data, including (and I’d add, especially) financial statements.
- Use your knowledge to make good decisions.
- Understand how your products/services impact key company measures and objectives.
- Effectively communicate your ideas to employees, managers and executives.
While Cope’s book is written for the reader within a company, the book is a tremendous resource for developing business acumen for any application. It’s a book you should give to every salesperson.
Yesterday I was working with one of the players on our college baseball team in the batting cage. He was working on an adjustment that would improve his consistency and effectiveness. As we were making adjustments (and I was seeing improved swings), I asked him how it felt.
His first response was a hesitant, “Yeah, it feels a little better.” Knowing that every player will say whatever it takes to appease his coach, I followed up by asking him if it really felt better. With a quizzical look he replied, “Well, yeah it does. It just feels like I’m not even putting any effort out.”
I told him what I tell every salesperson or business executive that I advise, “That’s how it’s supposed to feel.” I’ve always said, “If you feel like you’re selling, you’re doing something wrong.”
Talking with him reminded me of how, when we want something, we all press a little bit. The more we want it, the more we like to press, get tense and “try harder.”
What’s funny is that we also all get our best results when we’re not even trying. Athletes call it “the zone,” other call it “flow.” It occurs we our minds, bodies and actions are in complete alignment. We’re relaxed. We don’t have to think. We just act.
We you try too hard, you tense up. Your muscles – both physical and mental – contract. You get slow and you fall out of synch.
I think it’s important that we all remember that you don’t get into a state of flow by trying too hard. When the stakes are high, and the conditions are tough remember to go against your natural instinct of pressing, and instead relax and let it happen.
During last week’s webinar 5 Keys to Getting Your Sales Year Off to a Fast Start, I shared that a major difference between top performing salespeople and average ones is how and what top performers measure and track.
Top performers are maniacal when it comes to measuring and tracking key performance criteria. Average performers measure and track grudgingly.
An even bigger difference is what they measure. Average performers (and their managers) over emphasize activity and/or results. The primary reason for this is that it’s very easy to measure either of these.
The problem with measuring activity is twofold:
- All too often the activities measured have little to no impact on results. For example, making more sales calls does not necessarily translate into success. At best, they may correlate to success.
- The focus becomes activity, rather than results. If we measure and track the number of calls, the natural focus becomes about making more calls. Quality of the call or the appropriateness of the contact is ignored. This often translates into increased activity, increased costs and less success.
It can be just as bad to over emphasize results. Again there are two issues with an over-focus on results:
- We do not control results. I could do everything right and still not make the sale.
- Results are trailing indicators, and are not predictive of success.
Top performers measure what I refer to as efforts. Here’s my definition of an effort:
- It’s a cause of sales.
- It can be influenced, meaning that we have control over whether it happens or not.
- It’s one of a critical few (you should never have to track more than 5 efforts).
Greg Maddux, one of the great pitchers of all times, never kept track of how many hits he gave or, or even balls and strikes. Instead he kept track of how many times he executed his pitch to plan. He knew he had no control over the result of a pitch, and that good execution would lead to good results over time.
Try it; you’ll be impressed with the results.
Sure enough, a day after I present our webinar 5 Keys to Getting Your Sales Year Off to Fast Start, my friend and advisor happens to send her newsletter out reminding everybody that if you think that nothing happens the next two weeks – you’re thinking just like your competition.
Master Door Opener Caryn Kopp, shares several valuable thoughts on making the next two weeks productive. It’s well worth the read.
My favorite point: Often time that hard-to-reach decision maker who never has time for you, is probably more relaxed and chatty than normal.
Download her article, act on it and you’ll enjoy a head start.
Yesterday, as I was conducting some sales training for a client, we were talking about the importance of understanding your customer and I was sharing some tools we use to help companies and salespeople gain a better understanding (feel free to download it).
I could tell from the look on a few people’s faces that this was something they hadn’t done before. So, I shared a fundamental insight I’ve gain through 20+ years working with thousands of salespeople.
The biggest difference between great salespeople (who earn 2 – 10x what good salespeople make, and take far more time off as well) and good salespeople is the work the great ones do when they’re not in front of the customer. It’s just like athletics – the great ones practice harder, study more and constantly work on their craft. When you watch how hard someone like Drew Brees works before the game, it’s no surprise that he breaks records and wins Super Bowls (even though physically he’s not an ideal quarterback).
Great salespeople realize that a single small insight, gained from doing discovery work before they meet someone can be the difference between landing a multi-million dollar sale, while bypassing the RFP process, and failing to make the first cut.
Good salespeople work hard, often harder than the great ones. The problem is they dedicate all of their work during and after they meet with someone. They don’t like the pre-call practice and work required to gain those insights.
As you make your 2012 resolutions and goals, resolve to put more effort up-front in your sales efforts. Your income and vacation plans will appreciate it.
By the way, if you’d like to get a jumpstart on this resolution we’ll be sharing 5 insights into getting your sales year off to a fast start on Tuesday. It’s a free webinar and there’s still space to register.
Today, the Washington Capitals fired their coach, Bruce Boudreau. The fastest coach to win 200 games is fired with 201 wins.
My first reaction was a little shock. How could you fire a coach who turned the team around, and has one of the greatest win/loss percentages in history?
Then I realized that’s the cost to be great. The management of the Capitals isn’t satisfied with the best record in the regular season. Success is winning The Stanley Cup. As good as Boudreau has been it’s become clear he wasn’t the guy who would get the job done.
Before you write this post off as the musings of a Capitals fan; ask yourself do you have the discipline (and guts) to make these types of decisions? Look around your office, look at your payroll statements. Is every employee on your team up to winning your version of The Stanley Cup.
I’ve lost count of the number of salespeople, managers or long-term employees who are there for no other reason than they’re nice, loyal people who care.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying fire those people. I’m saying that you’re making a choice – and you need to accept the consequences. Bruce Boudreau is a great guy, a lot of fun, extremely loyal, and he’s quite a good coach. The Capitals made the tough decision that he wasn’t enough – kudos to them for having the guts.