We humans are funny animals. We tend to do the same things over and over, no matter what the consequences. Although we are admonished to learn from our mistakes, more often than not we continue to make the same mistakes time after time. Maybe not the big obvious mistakes, but the little ones that we don’t notice we keep doing and doing.
Doesn’t it seem reasonable that if we’re doing something that has a negative outcome that we’d stop doing it? Even more fundamental, doesn’t it seem reasonable that we’d notice that what we’re doing isn’t working?
Seems reasonable. But strange as it seems, our lives are full of things that have negative consequences, yet we continue to do them. Some we may be aware of and consciously choose to do anyway such as smoking, overeating, or taking a tad too many nips of the juice.
Nevertheless, there are whole hosts of actions we take that have negative consequences of which we are completely ignorant. We’re ignorant of these negative consequence actions not because we’re blind, or stupid, or too lazy to see them. We’re ignorant because we have never examined them to see what the consequences of those actions really are. We do them because we’re ‘supposed’ to do them or because that’s the way we’ve always done it. We do them out of ignorance.
Unfortunately, that same ignorance that invests other parts of our lives, worms its way into our sales careers as well. We do the things we’ve been told are the right things to do or we do them in the way we were told was the right way to do them. And when the outcome of those actions isn’t what it’s supposed to be, we blame ourselves or chalk it up to bad luck or bad timing. Worse, we decide the answer is to do more of those actions. If we do them more often and with more conviction, the outcome will definitely be better, right?
Can it get any stranger? Yet, that is how the vast majority of salespeople run their sales careers.
Cold calling not working? Make more cold calls. Not closing enough sales? Push for the sale harder. Not meeting enough prospects at the networking events you go to? Go to more events. The direct mail piece you sent not producing results? Send out more.
The answer is always more of the same. Do more of what’s not working and it’ll work.
What a strange business we’re in. What other business is there whose answer to the things that aren’t producing results is to do more of it?
Do you think that if the owner of a restaurant decided he wasn’t selling enough fish the answer would be to cook more fish? Or, if the radiology treatment a physician has prescribed isn’t working they would just prescribe a larger dose? Of course not. The restaurateur would want to know why he wasn’t selling more fish and he would figure out how to generate more customers who order fish or he would change his menu to reflect the tastes of his customers because if he tries to continue to force fish on his customers, he’ll be out of business. Likewise, instead of just prescribing a bigger dose of the same radiology treatment, the physician will seek to discover why the treatment isn’t working and change her prescription accordingly.
Neither the restaurateur nor the physician is just going to say, “oh, well. What I’m doing isn’t working so I’ll just do lots more of it.” We’d think they were nuts if that were their answer.
Yet, that’s the answer most salespeople come up with when their sales career isn’t progressing in the direction they want. And the strange thing is few of their associates or their manager think they’re crazy for simply doing more of what doesn’t work. In fact, they are often the salesperson’s biggest cheerleaders egging them on to do exactly that.
Can it get any stranger?
Why would a rational person decide the answer to correcting something that isn’t working is to do more of what isn’t working?
Although there are a number of reasons such as the advice they are getting from their sales manager, many of the sales books they read, and their associates, all assuring them that all they need to do is make more calls, push harder for the sales, send out more direct mail pieces, often the real culprit is that they have no idea what they are doing that is working and what they are doing that isn’t working.
Salespeople for the most part tend to work off gut feeling. “I feel that my cold calling isn’t producing the desired results.” “I feel that I’m my closing skills are really good, I just don’t feel that I’m getting to make enough presentations.” “I feel that I’m getting a lot of referrals, they’re just not very good.”
Working off gut feeling is a surefire way to feel and be broke.
The problem is few salespeople take the time and put in the effort to examine their sales business in detail to discover what they are doing that is really producing the results they want—and what they are doing that isn’t. Few salespeople know exactly:
- What activities they are investing the majority of their time in
- The characteristics of the prospects they really connect with
- Where their sales–not their prospects but their sales–are coming from
- What prospecting and marketing methods are actually producing sales and not just bodies
- What they are doing in the sales process that is working and what isn’t, furthermore, most have no real idea of what their sales process is
- Or know exactly how many qualified prospects they talk to, how many of those prospects bought, what specific products or services they bought, why the prospects bought—or didn’t buy
In order to run a business, the business owner must have a thorough knowledge and understanding of their income statement and their balance sheet. Those two documents tell the business owner what’s really going on in their business. They tell them not only how well they are doing, but where to invest more time and money, they warn of potential problems, and they reveal new potential opportunities the business owner might not otherwise have seen. The balance sheet and income statement are the history of the business and the business’s history tells the business owner what’s going to happen in the future—good and bad–unless the business owner makes changes to the business.
Salespeople need the same roadmap as any other business owner. Salespeople are not employees—despite getting a W2. Every salesperson is self-employed. They run their own sales company. For those salespeople who are W2’d, it just happens they have only one client—the company they are currently selling for. Like any business owner, they must have a historical document that alerts them to problems–as well as opportunities.
Rather than having a balance sheet and income statement, salespeople must take the time and invest the effort to reconstruct their sales and marketing history in numerical form. They must create a document that informs them of not what they think or feel has happened in the past, but tells them exactly what has happened. Such a document will tell them in no uncertain terms where they have really spent their time; what they have really done in terms of prospecting and marketing; who their ideal prospect really is; what prospecting and marketing methods are really working; what their closing ratio really is; and a great deal more. And it tells them that if they continue doing what they’re doing, exactly what will happen in the future. On the other hand, it will also tell them exactly what changes must be made in order to change their future.
If a sales history document is so powerful, why do only a handful of salespeople have one? Although one of the most powerful tools any salesperson—and their manager—can have, reconstructing one’s sales and marketing history is tedious, takes a good deal of effort, and for many the results are very uncomfortable.
If you are serious about changing your sales business, you must learn to run it like a business and to take full responsibility for what you do, why you do it, and how you do it. You can’t do that unless you know–and you can’t know by guessing or going on gut feeling. You can’t change your career if you simply continue to do what you’re doing.
For salespeople, finding and selling quality prospects is how they make a living. Yet, most leave their success or failure up to chance and gut feeling. Can it get any stranger than that? You don’t have to be like 85% of all other salespeople who meander along with no real idea of what to do to be successful.