A Lesson In Professional Salesmanship from Carlton Banks
Who doesn’t love a great Happy Dance when you finally close the deal? I mean, it makes you want to twist…shout…knock yourself out to get that sale, doesn’t it? Well, sometimes.
I’m going to be honest. If you are in sales (HINT: YOU ARE.) then actually getting a sale is part of the deal. It is the price of admission. It is what you are SUPPOSED to do.
When a player scores a touchdown, too often they act like they have never been to the end zone before. Is scoring not what players are supposed to do when they are on offense? If anyone should do a touchdown dance, it should be a defensive player who pulls off the interception…THEN runs down the field to score.
If you are in sales and consider yourself a professional…when you get a sale- act like you have been there before. One exception…if this is THE BIG DEAL you have worked painstakingly on for some time….May you dance like Carlton Banks (and may your boss react like the Fresh Prince of Bel Air)!
Have you ever read your own emails? Ever listened to yourself on the phone? Are those around you constantly NOT doing what you (thought) clearly spelled out for them to do? How satisfying are your relationships? As Blue Collar Comedy’s Bill Engvall would say, “Here’s your sign!”
Okay, I can hear your inner monologue as I type this:
“But, I’m a GREAT communicator, I am just surrounded by idiots.” Or
“Well, I know exactly what it is I want, they just don’t get me!” How about,
“If I don’t get what I want, I just say it again…LOUDER…until I do!”
Was I close?
Many years ago, in the midst of a job with a manager who “didn’t get me” and a relationship with a woman who “didn’t want me”, I began to look for answers. Though I was comfortable with public speaking, I sought out a Toastmasters club, just so I could get some feedback. To be honest, I just wanted satisfy my ego. What I began to understand, though, was maybe… JUST MAYBE…the communication problem was me.
Nearly a decade later, I have had the privilege of traveling around the world as a professional speaker, married an incredible woman who loves me for me, and have become a father to the most beautiful baby girl I’ve ever known (Yep, I am a proud Daddy!) I have found deeper personal relationships with family and friends. My professional relationships have also grown stronger and farther reaching than I ever imagined. So today, I’m taking on a new challenge to become even BETTER, and I am asking you to come along with me on this journey. Here it is: I want to become a better writer.
Last summer, I casually met a speaking colleague with whom you might be familiar. His name is Judson Laipply. If you have ever visited YouTube, you will know him as the “Evolution of Dance Guy”. Several months later, in response to an online posting Judson made, I received a free copy of Seth Godin’s book, The Icarus Deception. Which has me thinking. A lot.
In his book, Seth simply states to become a better writer, one must write. And he issued a challenge to write, something, every day. This article is the first response to that challenge. Some days I will probably write more. Others, I will write less. My goal, however, is to simply write.
Darren LaCroix, the 2001 World Champion of Public Speaking, is a mentor of mine. The license plate on his Mercedes convertible is “StageTime”; a reminder that there is no substitute for putting yourself out there, getting feedback, and adjusting to make yourself more effective from the platform. By heeding his advice, I’ve been around the world…and someone else purchased my plane tickets!
Godin now suggests the same idea to become a better writer. I am beginning to see a pattern.
What will YOU do consistently, on purpose, to get better? Everyday.
No matter your degree of experience in dealing with them, when I say Manager, a very specific image pops into your mind.
Some managers are good. Those are the ones you would run through a brick wall for, just because they hinted you might be able to do it.
Other mangers are bad. You know the type. Do you remember that manager who was “supposed to spend time with you” each month? They would show up on the scheduled day, sit in front of you and ask “So, what do you want to talk about today?”…and the first thought in your head was “…How fast can I get you out of my office!” I had one of those once.
Currently, I’m spending time with a sales team in a coaching & leadership role. In an effort to better understand what activities our respective team members are regularly doing, I have committed to meet with them, one-on-one, each month to listen, coach, and offer direction, where I can add value. One of the team members, though, had one of the best pieces of advice when he suggested, early in each quarter, I should be asking each team member “How is your NEXT quarter shaping up?” What a simple phrase to illustrate the intention of any sales manager– how to keep your troops focused on moving forward by planning ahead for success instead of simply reacting to the crisis of the day!
I thanked him. This week, I just may have learned more than I shared.
Now, are you one of the leaders people are fighting to work FOR or are people running as fast as they can to get AWAY from you? If you are the latter, it just might be time to talk less and listen more.
This afternoon leaves me longing for my “office from home” days where I actually felt MORE productive. Sound off in the comments on this blog post and share some advice on how to stay motivated & productive when working in a cubicle. Go!
Most successful people achieved their status shedding blood, sweat & tears. The rest found success by accident. Which path are you on?
Successful people also have another trait in common: failure. Each person at the top, even the lucky ones, made many mistakes along the way. Your journey is no different. The problem occurs when you never learn from the mistakes.
In the corporate world, managers routinely send employees to training classes, in hopes the trainers will magically “fix” their broken employees. (Read:Why Training Doesn’t Work).
What’s worse is when I routinely see “aspiring” individuals (often spending their own money) who continue to get in their own way when approaching a mentor, without even realizing it.
Here’s a list of the Top Five Rookie Mistakes:
1) Never admit you have no idea what you are doing.
I can sum this up in two words: freshman year. If you have blocked that traumatic experience from your memory banks, try to remember the second one…college freshman year. Look, in the adult world, you will gain much more respect from the professionals even a few years ahead of you by just showing a little humility. I have never seen someone in a business suit give anyone a swirly in the restroom—except once…and that guy deserved it.
2) You can simply hire people to do what you do not do well. Despite what you may have heard, there are no short-cuts! You may have heard the phrase “Do what you do best, outsource the rest!” Let me be clear: there are plenty of incompetent people who will take your money and make you feel good about it. Outsourcing any task or aspect of your business should not occur until you fully understand what successful execution of said task(s) looks like. Before you divulge your plan to avoid doing any “heavy-lifting” to your prospective mentor, I suggest you think twice. (Required reading: The Four-Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss and Take The Stairs by Rory Vaden).
3) Someone must agree to be your mentor before you can learn from them. Recently, I was watching a video post by prosperity expert, Randy Gage. He was talking about his “mastermind group” which included some of the greatest success-minded individuals of the past 100 years. Suddenly, it clicked. He does not actually sit down face-to-face with his mentors (some of them are actually dead!). Rather, he studies everything he can find where each mentor explains their philosophy: recorded speeches, books, articles, videos… And, in his mind, these guys speak to him and offer perspectives on success.
4) Make sure your mentor thinks just like you do. Listen up, kids, ‘cause I’m only going to say this once: Keep an open mind and turn off your filter once in a while – you just might learn something from your mentor. Time and again, I have witnessed people who ask for help, then offer a host of excuses why they couldn’t possibly do what had just been suggested they consider. Note: I am not saying you should “check your morals at the door”. I am merely suggesting that you can learn from people who think and act very differently than you. Especially an “unofficial” mentor. Even Einstein knew the definition of insanity as “doing the same thing over and over, expecting a different result.”
(Challenge: Research someone who has been wildly successful despite possessing very different values from yours. Look for motivators, techniques, and systems you could replicate – seek to understand the “how” and get out of your comfort zone. It’s been holding you back, anyway!)
5) Your plan is the only way it will work. As I look back at my career, with all of its amazing twists and turns, it is almost impossible to believe I am a professional speaker. What made it work was my perspective. Every setback. Every failure. Every slower than desired success. Each micro-decision along the way led me to where I stand today…on the platform. Your pathway to success probably will not look the way you think it should, but remember – it is your story to tell.
Turn each setback into a lesson and call it experience. Remember to celebrate the victories, no matter how small, with loved ones and confidantes. The road to success is full of twists and turns but, when you find yourself enjoying the journey, you will know you have arrived. You will be even more shocked when you realize who helped you get there. Now, pick up the phone and call that prospective mentor!
The older I become, the more convinced I am that everything runs in “cycles”. Music you once loved, eventually comes back around. Sports teams you follow, no matter how good they are today, inevitably wind up in a disappointing “rebuilding year”. Sales, once coming in as fast as you can take the orders, eventually slow to a crawl…along with the commission checks. And that is when it happens. The critical mistake most sales people eventually make… They dust off the same old presentation they’ve always given, complete with what they think their customer, prospect, or suspect already knows about their product or solution.
Take a close look at your sales team. If you are a sales team of one, it is time to be completely honest with yourself. Here’s how to do it:
Get back to basics. Instead of dusting off the same old script or [worse] old power point slide deck, start with a blank sheet of paper and a pencil. Jot down what it is you really want your customer to know. How long has it been since you reminded your customer how your company found success in the first place? Remember that this is your story to tell…so tell it your way!
Set aside some time to practice. Yes. Practice. Your favorite band still has rehearsals. Can you imagine a top performing sports team relying on their raw talent to get them to the championship game? I know a LOT of successful people who use their commuter time practicing speeches; rehearsing upcoming, difficult conversations; and simply talking through issues they are attempting to work out – even if they are talking to themselves. [You will be surprised how helpful it is to hear yourself OUT LOUD…but more on that in a minute.]
Creativity needs space. Once you have sketched out the outline for your presentation, planned that critical conversation, and even practiced it a few times, put your notes away for a couple of days. Let the ideas steep. During your commute, I challenge you to turn OFF the radio and just drive. Let your mind wander into and out of that presentation. Think about the message you are wanting to get across, at a higher level, and consider the phases of the presentation. I like to call this the 20,000 ft view. The details are not important, just focus on the “bigger picture”.
Record yourself delivering your presentation. Audio is good. Video is better. Video of you in front of a “live audience” is perhaps the best.
Critique the presentation. This is the hardest part for most people. It is time to set aside your ego, and remember that the ultimate goal is to make such a favorable impression in the room, the buyer will not have a decision to make, because they will be too busy placing the order. You will want to review your video three times:
Listen only. Turn your back to the screen and simply listen to the presentation. Keep a timer handy, and make notes of your impressions while you write down where you were in the presentation as you had those thoughts. Examples: “1:42 – sounded uncertain” or “3:02 – confusing explanation”.
Watch only. For the second pass, watch the video of your presentation without any audio. Make notes of what your gestures, expressions and body language are saying. Do you look like you are enjoying the presentation? Do you appear trustworthy? How much are you moving around? Do you display confidence, or discomfort? How about 90 seconds later?
Watch with audio. On the third pass, you’ll finally watch and listen at the same time, to your presentation. Make a third set of notes. It should be fairly easy at this point to know what areas of the presentation need the most work.
Feedback accompanied by a willingness to re-tell your story in a new way helps to keep your message fresh, and your topic / product relevant. Stop relying on “tenure” and your “years in the business” to get you by. Ego may have gotten you here, but the most successful salespeople know it won’t keep you here. Avoid that critical mistake, and you will have more business than you can handle.
There are all kinds of numbers. Look around you, numbers are sales projections, sports scores, speed limits, lottery numbers – heck, singles are always trying to “get someone’s digits”. Numbers can tell a story. Scratch that…numbers tell THE story.
Selling old timers proclaim, with great fanfare, “It’s a numbers game.” They are only half right. Numbers are just numbers, until you understand the story.
The Facts About Sales Numbers:
1) If you have good sales numbers, as a salesman, you can pretty much do whatever you want. Sales (be you a solo practitioner or part of a sales team in any industry) is the lifeblood of your industry. Sales pays salaries, drives profits, and keeps your boss happy. If you want to be left alone, in most situations, simply sell.
2) Why do I have to fill out activity reports? Don’t they trust me? Owners, investors and management often focus on this item- but only in the absence of sales. If the sales are not rolling in, management is forced to seek answers the question “why”. It is only natural to ask, “what is our sales force doing”. It’s the prudent question to ask, but often rubs salespeople the wrong way.
3) What’s in the pipeline? While activity reports are a diagnostic tool helpful when mentoring or coaching a salesperson, it is the sales pipeline that begins to tell the real story. It is tempting to jump to the belief that the only way to track this is by implementing a strict Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system like Salesforce, Act!, or SugarCRM. In reality, the fastest way to get a handle on how effective your efforts are, can be as simple as writing down known opportunities with pencil and paper. (Download this Free Sales Project Template and use it to document opportunities).
4) Who needs a calendar, it is all in my head! You may be able to remember the facts, but how certain are you to recall exactly the right information at the right time to ensure you never miss an opportunity to close the deal? Successful salespeople know follow up is the key to the kingdom. There is no place for ego vs. calendar. Calendar wins. If nothing else, having your next steps outlined on a calendar for easy recall just might supplant your bosses seeming micromanagement in #2 or #3. (I once turned a $400,000 lost opportunity into a $3,500,000 account—just by putting a follow-up reminder on the ONE DAY that customer had to re-evaluate their decision.)
5) If you do not like activity reports, sales funnels, and organizational management tools, or the like, see #1! And learn how to pray. Seeing as I checked my sales ego long ago and opted instead for a lifelong commitment to continuous improvement, I’m going to continue reading blogs like this one, and attending meetings to learn to sell even better. (If you read this before Sept 15th, 2012, you should make plans to JOIN ME!)
There is one more way to make certain you give it your best this week.
YOUR CHALLENGE: Publicly state below what you are going to do different this week to improve your sales, and we will check back with you in a week to see what effect it had on your success. If you really believed what you already do was working, you probably wouldn’t still be reading this article…so start typing!
Let me begin by saying, I am a Clint Eastwood fan. In movies. As a director. And likely, he’s the kind of guy I’d like to have a drink with. As a speaker, however, I have a problem. Let’s break it down. (If you haven’t yet seen it, you’ll find a video of the speech from YouTube, below.) I am technically an Independent voter, and am not here to discuss the “merits” of his points, rather the problem with “celebrity speakers”.
On August 30, 2012, on the final night of the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida, Clint Eastwood took to the stage as a much ballyhooed, “mystery speaker” who had been pumped up by the media for the entire convention. He hit the stage with an image of a gun-wielding cowboy – perhaps from “Fist Full of Dollars” or perhaps “The Outlaw Josey Wales”…it doesn’t matter. We all know him, and as I said before, his body of work is iconic as the classic bad-ass — he even usurps Chuck Norris.
Some celebrity speakers use their fame to advance a cause. George Clooney has raised international awareness of the issues in Darfur. Lance Armstrong (yes, I remain a fan of his, too) has raised hundreds of millions for cancer research through the Lance Armstrong Foundation /Livestrong. Charlton Heston, another actor, was very involved in political activism, including his role of President of the National Rifle Association. Others, however, use their “celebrity” as a money grab (Seriously, people PAID to have Snooki show up at their event?). Eastwood was somewhere in-between. I’m certain his endorsement of Mitt Romney as the Republican GOP’s candidate for President of the United States (POTUS) is sincere, but the speech…well, let’s get to that.
Clint Eastwood, from a speaker’s point of view:
Never take your “imaginary friend” on stage with you – Sure, it sounds good in a conference room, or at the bottom of a great glass of scotch, but portraying the sitting POTUS as an imaginary guest in a disrespectful bit where you imply he is using profanity and spouting rhetoric the speaker himself would not dare say out loud is gimmicky, cheap, and disrespectful to the office.
If you do use an imaginary friend, have a script.- Having originally missed seeing or listening to the speech live, I read a copy of a transcript of it, and was unable to decipher what, exactly, was going on. I honestly thought he may have suffered a stroke from the platform. The video confirmed it was…well…on purpose.
Comedy is based in Tragedy- In a political speech, no doubt, a little bit of comedy can go a long way to “humanize” a speaker. Eastwood’s use of a comedic (and I use that word loosely) sketch comedy bit was…well, simply tragic.
Make sure you have something to say- Early in my career as a speaking professional, my own father spoke those words of wisdom to me about my aspirations. He quickly followed with, “I’ve heard many-a-speaker talk for hours and hours about absolutely nothing.” Dad, I’m not certain Mr. Eastwood would have passed your test with his performance.
Never upstage the headliner- I recently attended a session at the National Speakers Association national conference about how to add “spectacle” to your speech and make your event memorable. Okay, sir. If the tweets immediately following and subsequent media chatter about your speech are any indication, you did just that. Then again, Mitt Romney seems to lack that X-factor from behind the podium I look for in any speaker.
Suggesting the student loan debt in the United States is a throw-away issue might work against the votes your party needs to win the upcoming election. Student loan debt is the next big economic issue we must address as a country. At over $1 Trillion, there are more student loans than unsecured consumer debt or total dollars spend to bailout Wall Street investment banks during this past Presidential term. (See also this article from the New York Times) As a member of Generation X married to a Generation Y spouse and having dealt with that issue in our household, I don’t think your suggestion that President Obama’s addressing that topic on college campuses was a worthless exercise was appropriate.
Finally, there was the Freebird moment, when a random conventioneer yelled out for Clint Eastwood to recite his famous line, he quite successfully used the “Call and Response” technique by uttering “Go ahead…” to which the audience said, “Make. My. Day.” before erupting with thunderous applause as he concluded his speech.
Was the Clint Eastwood at RNC 2012 memorable, yes. Entertaining, of course. Serious, not really. Did it do any favors for those of us who take speaking seriously as a profession…not at all.