Salespeople are a creative bunch, especially when it comes to the stories they tell themselves. These also happen to be the same stories that managers find themselves to be the unfortunate recipients of during many meetings, conversations or performance reviews. Unfortunately, rather than removing themselves from the story, managers find they are getting sucked into it, wasting valuable time and resources on a well fabricated issue that has no real resolution.
I refer to these illusions as S.C.A.M.M.’s which is an acronym for Stories, Cons, Assumptions, Meaning and Mindset.
A S.C.A.M.M. is an action, excuse, or belief you hide behind that justifies your circumstance, behavior, and performance, even your position on something, that provides you with an excuse so you do not have to be accountable for your responsibilities, goals, or the situations you put yourself in. The one commonality that each of these five words share is choice. At the very core, your stories, cons, assumptions, imposed meanings, and mindset are ultimately a choice.
Just ask salespeople who have to prospect to build their businesses. They can justify practically any activity that will take them away from prospecting, allowing them to major in the minor activities that act as diversions to doing what’s truly needed.
Once you’re able to uncover a salesperson’s S.C.A.M.M., the tactical coaching strategy would be to coach the person on rewriting their story from a place of challenging them on creating some other truths that may be possible, instead of jumping into and chasing their elusive story down the ever-winding rabbit hole with them. This is a key point not to be brushed by and critical to the impact you can make when coaching your salespeople. In other words, you don’t coach the story or feed into the story. If you do, you are coaching someone around a lie, something that doesn’t even exist. Instead, you coach the person on their relationship with the story they tell you in order to uncover the real truth of what’s going on.
What are some stories you may hear from your salespeople? I’ve listed a few of the more ‘popular’ fables that you can start to recognize the next time you hear a salesperson attempting to enroll you in one.
The Top Ten Lies We Tell Our Boss (and Ourselves) – And Actually Believe
1. Fear of Failure (or Success): “I’m afraid of failure yet I won’t take the steps to ensure my success. Therefore, if I sit back and do nothing, then I can never fail at anything!”
2. Perfectionism/’Either Or’ Thinking: “Either I create the perfect (prospecting, time management, goal setting, management, coaching) system to use or I don’t do it at all. A similar perfectionism type of story is created by the type of salespeople I refer to as knowledge junkies. Their story can sound like this: “I’m still not ready yet. Just a little more training, research and due diligence, then I’ll be ready.”
3. Taking It All On: “I can’t delegate these tasks that other people may be able to do because they will never do it as good as I can.”
4. Been There, Done That: “The last time I attempted to build my business through prospecting it was a waste of time. Therefore, I know that prospecting won’t work for me.” (Did you ever consider that it was more your approach to prospecting that wasn’t effective?)
5. Playing It Safe: “Sure I’ve been prospecting. I mean, I’ve been targeting my current accounts to see if there are any service issues that need to be handled and whether I can get more business from them. After all, you need to take care of your current customers, right?” (Do you want to survive or thrive? Your choice.)
6. The Accountability Trap: “Of course I have a to-do list. I check things off as soon as I can fit them in.” Do you have a deadline associated with each task on your to-do list? A task without a deadline is another S.C.A.M.M. Writing down a long list of tasks or activities that are not scheduled and have no timelines or completion dates associated with them is another way to avoid accountability. Since you are keeping the timeline open ended, you don’t have to be responsible for completing the tasks by any specific date. No schedule, no commitment.
7. Not Having a Schedule: “I’m so busy that I don’t have time to create my routine! “The absence of a routine frees you from being accountable for certain things you’re responsible for or you may not want to do but have to do in order to reach your goals.
8. Everyone Comes Before Me: “I can’t say ‘No’ to my clients. I have to take care of them or they will go elsewhere, right?” Do you have a salesperson who has a hard time saying, “No” to clients and drops everything at their request? One of my clients, Mary, was telling me that she blocked out Mondays and Fridays for marketing, professional development, research and new business development activities. When I asked her if she honored this, she paused for a moment and then replied, “No.” Mary shared with me the fear she experienced about blocking out two full days, even though she knew that in order for her to build her practice this was a priority. So, inevitably, a client would call and ask to see her on a Friday or Monday. Rather than honoring the appointment she made with herself, she would set the appointment with the client. Mary said she had a real hard time saying “No” to her clients. After all, if she said “No” to them, maybe they would go elsewhere, right? Either that, or she felt her clients wouldn’t be able to meet with her at another time. What a S.C.A.M.M. Either you are going to run your life, or other people and circumstances are going to run you. Honor the commitments you make to others as well as the commitments you make to yourself. Besides, you cannot effectively take care and serve others if you do not take care of yourself first.
9. Interrupt-Driven: “I can’t focus on any task for very long because I am constantly being interrupted by people, situations, problems and new tasks I’m suddenly responsible for. It’s hard to get things done.” This easily distracted salesperson probably has a long list of tasks that never get completed. This person may also be an adrenaline junkie who loves the rush of working on overdrive when trying to do it all and juggle many unfinished and ongoing tasks. Do you become easily diverted or distracted by situations, new tasks or people rather than maintain the focus on your goals and initial objective? If so, you probably have a long list of tasks that never gets completed, because you feel that you’re always being pulled in a different direction.
10. Playing The Victim: “I can’t believe I wasn’t able to schedule an appointment with Mr. Prospect today. I feel so dejected and frustrated, too frustrated to do anything else productive today.” Do you allow one bad experience to snowball and affect the rest of your day? Rather than moving on and forging ahead, this allows you to go into a negative tailspin and destroy the chance of doing anything else productive for the remainder of your day.
The next time you encounter someone who is reluctant to take the necessary actions to achieve the results that matter most, there will always be some type of confining belief, story or S.C.A.M.M. at the core that is getting in the way. Think of it as an objection you may hear from a prospect. If you can uncover, address and defuse their story, you free them up to take the action.
The real danger comes when a manager starts believing and feeding into the story. Instead, try this approach the next time. Rather than coach someone on their S.C.A.M.M, have them rewrite and redefine their story in a more empowering way. For example, you can use the following questions to help them reshape their reality and their perception: “I can understand how you can feel that way. However, is there another way to look at this that might serve you better?” “Is this way of thinking helping you or consuming you?” What else might be true?” “How can you change your thinking around this in a way that would move you forward?” “What do you think it’s going to cost you if you continually buy into that line of thinking?”
After all, every S.C.A.M.M.; every story, belief assumption, worry and fear is created using the very same tool we use to define our goals and dreams; our imagination.
You may find that one or two (or more) of these behaviors describe some of your salespeople’s S.C.A.M.M.’s (maybe even some of your own), and this is actually good news! I never said that you would like bringing these truths to the surface. Although it takes a conscious effort to uncover other people’s diversionary tactics, it takes a lot of courage to admit that you use them, too. However, now that you have a greater understanding and awareness, you can do something about them.
When you notice yourself or your salespeople falling into any of these traps, you can choose to either continue engaging in the S.C.A.M.M., or make a better choice that will generate the results you really want.