An Alternative Sales Training Article
This may not seem like a selling tool in the beginning, but it may be the most important lesson an already accomplished sales professional can learn. Allow me to set it up properly and I promise it will be worth your while.
I first started writing songs in the 70s and made my first record in Nashville, where I live. Nashville is also where I met my partner, Joey Bouza, who went to college and met his wife here. Nashville has taught me a lot of lessons and my love for story songs (a lost genre) is the inspiration for the title of this sales article. The wisdom in the title will become apparent as we move on.
Everyone has things they are passionate about, hopefully including our wives, husbands, or significant others. Writing and playing music has been high on the list of hobbies I’m passionate about for a long time. Some people’s hobby is cycling, others hiking, running, fast cars, etc. For my wife and I, it used to be horses, until we traded them in for a new lifestyle – grandchildren.
I surprised myself tonight when I came home from dinner: I had to start writing this article. It probably would have been best to retire and go to bed, yet I was inspired to the point that I knew I would not be able to sleep until I got these thoughts down on paper – or a Word doc. It made me realize how much I love to think about, talk about, analyze, execute, and be involved in anything that has to do with the selling process. Keyword: process. Remember the old adage “it’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey?” Well, that’s what this article is all about. Now, if you don’t get stressed about the results and always have fun, then this article may only reinforce your great habits. However, if you find yourself not enjoying the journey and not selling as much as you think you may be capable of, well, this Bud’s for you. (I don’t like domestic beer, but what a well-branded statement, eh?)
So a few years back, my wife Tammy and I threw in with this brilliant young partner and, starting from scratch, began a digital marketing agency to provide leads to the piano industry. Ok, there was a lot wrong with the idea of a new digital company from the get-go: from basing our endeavor on a shrinking industry selling an old instrument in a consumer world with too many recreational options, to dealers struggling harder than ever to be profitable since the economic downturn and the lack of discretionary funds in the marketplace. Oh Boy… why would we do such a thing? Answer: because it needed to be done. We love music and to quote someone who I didn’t get permission to quote, “we’re in love with the pain!” We love music, all three of us, Joey and I as guitarists and my wife as a violin/fiddle player. We are doing what we love. Accordingly, sitting here writing at this late hour as if I had a melody or a hook line in my head brings me to realize how passionate I still am for the sales process as well.
A couple months into the new company, after we’d signed up the first fifteen clients, my wife came to me and the scene that played out has since become recurring. She has been the rock of my financial existence, a phenomenal money manager who helped manage the growth and success of our first successful piano industry company, Direct Success Enterprises. Tammy asked, “So what do you think the commission check from the new company will be this month?” Since she handles all the bills, payables and receivables for both Direct Success and our offices and homes, she wanted to know how to construct the monthly budget. Fair question, right? She needed to know in order to do her job well. My response? “Well… Uh, I’m not really sure. I could guess, but I haven’t really been keeping up with it.” The look on her face showed she was incredulous. “You call yourself a salesman – no, a sales trainer –and you have no earthly idea what I will have to work with from Prospects International? You gotta be kidding me!” The scene plays out every month to this day, except I’ve learned to guestimate within a couple thousand dollars so she at least has an idea about the taxes and whatnot. She likes to pre-plan and she’s good at it.
The fact remains that after giving it some thought, I refuse to change. It’ll mess up my sales mojo. Here’s a statement which will make some of you think I’m a legitimate Looney Tunes, mental ward candidate: It’s not about the money for me. It’s about the journey, not the destination. It’s the challenge; it’s the kill; it’s the game; it’s the amazing amount of fun I have working with different types of people; it’s about knowing that without a graduate degree, with limited college experience but many books under my belt (I’m self-taught), I’m making more money than my highly educated friends; it’s the fact that I help independent business people make money and support my family and theirs AND their employees and their employees’ families; it’s every time we take on a campaign, we contribute to the well-being of our vendors and their families. It could also be the freedom to go where I want when I want and not wear a hard hat and punch a time clock. It probably has something to do with being able to be creative (because selling well is a creative act) and a problem solver. Most likely, it has a lot to do with helping put music in people’s lives because I know what music has meant to mine. It’s about a lot of things and it’s occurred to me the reason why I and a lot of top performers make a lot of money is because it’s not about the money. It’s about the process and the accomplishment of being the best you that you can be. The title of this article is making a little more sense now, eh? Keep going…
I used to coach young children and athletes and, having comparable talent, we usually won more games than the teams we competed against. Why? Fundamentals, the process. These were our focus. While the other coaches were coaching to win, we were coaching to develop young kids for the next stage. Winning was the by-product of the primary goal, to help these young individuals be the best them they could be. Just like sales people who focus on money and get outperformed by people having fun while figuring out how to be the best sales pro, these teams won by working on playing together and being their best. And they won more often than the teams focused on winning. Make sense? Now the title of this article “Never Count Your Money, When You’re Sitting at the Table” is really tying into the content of this article, I dare say.
There are many, many ways to be a better sales pro and have more fun. If you are looking to have more fun selling, you should go to the “Resources” page on our website, and read a great article about color coding. I figured out a long time ago the psychological value of this method. I’ve seen it take 40K, 80k, and six-figure sales folks alike and increase their sales phenomenally. In many cases, their sales double. This has nothing to do with margins; it has to do with being organized and allowing the color game to motivate you to be more productive.
It’s really cyclic in that selling cures a bad mood; if you worry about quality activity and not about closing, you sell more and are naturally in a better mood. If you worry too much about the outcome, you most often don’t end up in as good of a place (Wow, that was heavy). My strong suggestion is that you visit and revisit Zig, Dale, Charles, and Tony (if you don’t know who they are by their first name, you have some reading to do) who are inarguably on the Mount Rushmore of sales training and then do like professionals should. Work on your basics, refine them. Practice them. Don’t be embarrassed to grab a colleague and role play during down time. Get as good at your craft as you can and when it comes time to perform, knowing you are properly prepared, have some fun with it. Be engaging and make the process fun and memorable for your client. Don’t be… Well, you can finish that sentence yourself however you choose, but you catch my drift.
Reality Check: it is easy for an established old pro to say you shouldn’t worry about the money, but the process instead. But what about folks just starting out? What about salespeople just entering the profession who can hear the wolf at the old proverbial door? Good point. The answer is two-fold, my young friends: first off, even if you do need a sale in the worst way, you cannot tip your hand. You cannot show it. If you act like you need a sale, you may as well write it on a post-it and stick it in the middle of your forehead. How would that make your prospect feel? Probably like you’ll say anything to accomplish your goal of survival. That reality can never be obvious. There is an amusing painting on my optometrist’s waiting room wall (his last name is Ducklo) which I offer up as great sales advice for the too nervous or too pushy beginner in survival mode. Underneath the painting of a duck are the words: Be like a duck, calm and serene on top of the water, but paddle like hell underneath. That is a great word picture, as Gary Smalley would say.
The second piece of advice I offer is one given to me at an earlier age when I came to Nashville to be a songwriter. I was sitting on a deck with a publisher willing to listen to a couple tunes (that used to be the culture here before big business moved in). His advice? “Well, son, if this is really what you want to do, get a day job so you can stick around the industry for a while and work your way up. You have to be able to pay your bills first and foremost and then you’ll be able to stay and get to know the people at the writers nights with whom you’ll need to network to make your dream happen.” I followed his advice and got a job selling advertisement on the streets of Nashville so I could stay. However, I never made the switch to full-time songwriting, because by the time I had the opportunity to write for a living, I had started a family. I couldn’t justify a huge pay cut to follow that dream. Ah, don’t feel sorry for me. I still write, record, and play from time to time. The takeaway from this paragraph and my second salient point to the newcomer? Don’t hesitate to supplement your income when you are getting started. Sales is a great and honorable profession. Consider yourself beginning in school, learning your craft. As we all know, many college students hold a part-time job while learning their trade. There is no shame in that. Find another means of income until you can feel you are advanced enough on your chosen career to leave the other behind.
I took a lot of punches as a young man (that’s a story for another day) and I’ve lived in the south most of my life, so my style is laid back. When I call on you, it often doesn’t feel like you are being sold. It feels more like a pesky old friend and you have to decide whether or not you’ll make time for me. This style has served me well. When I was with Cox Communications years ago, the older sales pros dubbed my approach the “Columbo Technique.” They used to say it was painful to watch me work because I spent so much time not talking strict business. It drove them crazy. They thought I was losing money and burning time by not getting down to it. After a couple years of better sales numbers and a higher closing ratio, they began to understand this style was intentional and you probably know why. Because while I was fumbling around, I was making a friend. Little did the prospect know I was executing a strict chronological order and sales method while fumbling. There was a method to my madness, kinda like Detective Columbo.
Herein lies the big secret to great salesmanship. People want to buy but nobody wants to be sold, so you must break down the barriers of mistrust and be their trusted advisor, not a salesperson. There are many ways to do it. I accomplished it by taking the non-threatening posture to its most intense application. An intense application of a laid-back approach seems like an oxymoron, but it’s not. As I stated earlier, no matter how badly you need a sale, you can never show it. Always place becoming a friend above your sales goals. Trust me, the money will take care of itself.
Here is another item you should strongly consider as you wade into the world of selling: don’t take yourself too seriously. People want to have a good experience, so place a high premium maintaining or, if you don’t have one (which would create pity on my part), growing a sense of humor. Be appropriate; don’t go over the top, but please don’t be the sales person your clients will think of as “stuffy” as they drive away.
Summary: enjoy the game. Enjoy the ride. A lot of world champion athletes seem elementary when explaining in a post-competition interview how they kept it simple and remembered to enjoy the moment. Many world class musicians are winners, whether it’s a classical piano competition or a fiddle contest, because they got lost in the piece. That’s the secret. Worry about the money when the day is done, when the week is done, when the month is done. You will play your best by concentrating on the game, not the outcome. Like the end of the phrase in the Kenny Rogers song, “They’ll be time enough for counting when the dealings done.”
Happy Selling… concentrate on the “happy” part.