Sales and Sales Management

Sorry, Buddy, But Your Best Just Isn’t Good Enough

I have received several email responses to my recent The Value of Fear post that have been very critical of my position that fear not only is a great motivator but that sellers need to experience failure in order to learn to fear it.

A good many of the emails chastised me for suggesting that sales leaders should allow sellers to experience failure.  Rather their position is that the sales leader should be doing everything possible to help sellers avoid failure in order to help them grow their self-confidence and that they should never criticize a seller’s failure but in all cases be encouraging and supportive.

The implication is that if one criticizes then by definition they are not supporting the seller.

That position, I believe, has more to do with Political Correctness than reality—and does far more to destroy the seller, the sales leader, and the company than whatever good some mushy soft hearted encouragement in the face of failure can ever do.

I’m not saying encouragement is bad.

I’m not saying that helping a seller to find some positive in failure is bad.

What I am saying is that protecting sellers from the consequences of their failure is bad.

Sellers need to feel the pain of failure and if we try to soft-pedal their failures into some weak, fictional success we’re setting them up for even more profound failures in the future.

Worse, we could be setting them up for the ultimate failure of getting hit out of left field with the disturbing news that they no longer have a job.

Let me relate a brief email exchange from the past week:

Me (to a sales leader who had emailed me with his disagreement with my post on fear): So all of your conversations with you salespeople are 100% positive even when they have failed?

Sales Leader: You misunderstand.  They never fail.  When they don’t succeed they learn something.  There is no such thing as failure.

Me:  How can you not discuss their failure with them so that they understand the real meaning of it, that is, that it is more than a learning opportunity, it is a missed sale that hurts them, the company, and even the prospect?

Sales Leader:  It is never about failure.  It is never about pain or hurt or missed opportunity.  It is about a positive experience—they saw a prospect; they made a presentation; they learned something new.  Talk of fear and failure and pain and missed opportunities kills the spirit and I want my people to experience nothing but good, to feel good about themselves and what they are doing.

Me:  What happens to those salespeople who don’t have enough successes to meet quota?  What do you do with them after they’ve missed quota time after time?

Sales Leader:  Well, certainly there are some that we have to part ways with, but that’s just one of the unfortunate parts of business.

Me:  So you’re giving these people positive feedback, telling them to continue doing their best and all will be good, never letting them know failure, and then out of the clear blue one day you say, “Hey, buddy, your best isn’t good enough.  We have to let you go?”  Is that fair to the seller?

I haven’t received a response yet from the sales leader.

Sellers need to experience the consequences of their actions—both positive and negative.

Sales leaders need to communicate honestly with their charges and that includes letting them know when they failed, why they failed, and what their failure means.  Trying to sugar coat failure, trying to protect the delicate feelings of sellers will eventually do far more harm than good.

We grow through our experiences–all of our experiences, good and bad, success and failure, those we are proud of and those we aren’t.

Overly protective sales leaders need to learn to let go and let their salespeople know the real pain of their actions, as well as the success.

And ultimately maybe the desire to protect sellers from experiencing the consequences of their failure says more about the sales leader than the seller.


Absence Makes the Heart Go Wander

For all the talk of relationship selling being dead, I am still long human relationships. Your best relationships are based on your ability to create value, no doubt. But they are relationships nonetheless, and relationships require proper care and feeding.

Other than an inability to create value, nothing destroys relationships faster than your absence. A lack of presence is a liability when it comes to relationships. It’s neglect.

Absence does not make the heart grow fonder. Absence makes the heart go wander.

If you don’t invest in your client relationships, know that someone else will. If you aren’t willing to have a presence, to give the relationship its proper care and feeding, and continually create value, you can bet that your competitor will. Here are three commands for preventing a wandering heart in your client contacts.

Maintain a Presence: Long periods of absence are felt as neglect. Long periods without communication make your client feel that they are being ignored. The maintenance of relationships requires an investment of time. Relationships require your presence. The best way to maintain a presence is by using your calendar to plan your relationship building. Make a list of the relationships you need to maintain, and schedule the sales calls you need to make at least one quarter in advance. Then make your presence felt.

Prove That You Care: Your clients need to know that you care about them. They need to know that you are thinking about them and their business. Proving that you care requires an investment of time, but the unexpected follow up call to ensure that things are going well (or the unexpected thank you card) indicates that you care. It proves you are thinking about your client. Make the calls. Send the thank you cards. Do something. Prove that you care.

Move From Value Creation to Value Creation: Relationships are based on value creation. It’s not enough just to have a friendly relationship with your clients. You have to bring business results. You have to bring them new ideas. Preventing your clients from having a wandering heart means moving from value creation to value creation, never becoming complacent, never resting on your laurels. Sales is the fashion business. Make a list of ideas that you and your clients can implement together over the next four quarters. Share these initiatives with your clients during your meetings. They give you a reason to have a presence, and it’s a reason based on value creation.

Work to make the heart grow fonder, not to make the heart go wander.


The power of using someone’s name

Why is it that when someone uses our name, we instantly jump to attention, our ears prick up, our antennae switches to high alert, and we pay a bit more attention? It’s because it’s the one thing that we totally associate with ourselves and no one else.

Yes there are many people with the same first name as you in the world, but when someone actually says the word in your vicinity, you instantly respond and pay more attention – they are talking to you.

Last week, I dropped my car off with the valet at the airport to get it cleaned whilst I was away for the day. Nothing special there, but when I approached the kiosk and handed my keys over, the gentleman behind the desk asked, “hi, can I take your business card please?” I handed over my card, and he said “thank you Linda, and how is Blue Banana treating you today?” Huh, my name! Instantly I thought “how on earth does he know, and how cool is that?” Of course, my business card followed by my Visa card gave him all the information he needed, but because so few people take the time and effort to actually use your name, it really stood out for me, he made me feel important, not just another number at the deli counter of life.

The taxi driver on the same day greeted me by name as the firm I was working with that day had booked him and filled him in with my name and where I was going. Nothing new there, but after we chatted during the journey, he wished me a safe flight home and once again used my name at the end in farewell. Nice.

People like to feel important; it’s human nature and by using someone’s name at the right time and in the right manner, it goes a long way to achieving this. It’s easy to do, and yet so few of us do it.

I was waiting in the reception area of a possible client recently, and noticed another chap waiting too. A staff member came out, approached the chap and inquired “Andrew?” “Paul” came the reply, and off they went together. At no time did the staff member apologize for getting his name wrong, and poor old Paul must have been thinking “if he can’t be bothered to get my name right, my interview / pitch is doomed from the start, I may as well leave now!” That’s an insult in anyone’s book.

So how can you use someone’s name just a little more and make them feel important?

Here are some everyday examples of how you can do just that:

Jot down the telephone callers name as soon as they introduce themselves and say “hello (insert name here)”. Make sure you say good-bye (insert name here) at the end of the call, even if it’s a telephone marketer that has interrupted you.

Use it at the beginning of your email rather than just launching into your message.

Why not add it into the beginning greeting of your text? With predictive text and an ample keypad, many people don’t use text language anymore, but full and proper words.

Replying to tweets or comments, you are still communicating person to person, just virtually so use their name here too.

Use the person’s name that you have just met by saying “hello (insert name here) good to meet you”. Saying it quickly after they have introduced themselves is a great way of remembering it.

So stand out a little from the crowd and be remembered because you remembered to use their name. It’s the single thing we all so love the sound of.

How do you use people’s names easily, do you have any comments to add?