Like most sales trainers and consultants, I am always looking for new lessons to learn and effective ways to communicate those lessons. Sometimes the lessons are learned by watching and analyzing others; sometimes the lessons are far more personal. Often the personal lessons provide great examples for communicating the lesson to others. Such a lesson took place a couple of days ago.
My wife and I have just moved into our new home and that, as anyone who has ever moved knows, demands everything be cleaned as it is unpacked or as it is being arranged in the new home. While cleaning a large curio cabinet, Debbie, my wife, had the opportunity to remind me of just how little it takes to go from satisfactory to excellent in one’s work.
Curio cabinets are about three quarters glass and have a large mirror in the back of the cabinet to boot. Cleaning all of this glass and mirror was my job. I spent about 20 minutes spraying glass cleaner and then wiping with paper towels. Paper towel after paper towel gave its little life so that the curio cabinet might shine once the light inside it was turned on.
A few minutes after I had declared the curio cabinet done, Debbie went over to inspect my work. I was off blissfully going about my business when I heard a voice bellow, “Would you come here a minute?” Why that didn’t sound like the voice of my sweet petite bride at all. It wasn’t. It was her cleaning perfectionist alter ego.
When I got back to the den, Debbie was standing at the cabinet, glass cleaner and paper towel in hand. I knew what was coming.
“How can you call this clean?” she asked. I knew that whatever answer I gave would be wrong, so I chose to assume it to be a rhetorical question.
“Are you blind?” Now this one was one I could handle since I am, in fact, blind in my left eye. I knew, however, if I answered “yes,” I was simply asking for more trouble. Again, the right answer was no answer.
“Can’t you see those streaks?” Debbie demanded as she was attacking them, taking her frustration with me out on them.
Now I had spent 20 minutes dealing with the glass and mirror of this cabinet. I had dealt with finger and palm prints, tape residue, and what appeared to be some dried coke spots. I had put in the effort to get the cabinet 95% clean. My efforts for most people would have been satisfactory. Debbie isn’t most people. She expected excellence and I hadn’t delivered.
OK, I admit I had stopped short of cleaning excellence and deserved to have it pointed out. But the real slap in the face was that when Debbie attacked the problem it took her only a minute or two to take my work from satisfactory to excellent. I had done all of the hard work. I had put in the effort to get the cabinet to the point where it was right on the verge of being perfect. Then I stopped. When Debbie came behind me it took her only seconds to attain cleaning excellence.
So what has cleaning a curio cabinet to do with sales? Everything—and not just about sales but about life.
That little extra effort Debbie put in really is the difference between being average and being exceptional–no matter the task you’re engaged in.
Most of us in sales do a quite satisfactory job.
Few of us are excellent.
In most cases it isn’t a difference in skill or knowledge or resources. It’s a difference in attitude—between those of us who are willing to settle and those who insist on investing the extra little bit to go from satisfactory to excellent. The time and effort differential is relatively small—a few seconds in essence—while the effect difference it enormous.
Are you satisfied with being satisfactory or are you committed to being excellent?