“Nothing in the world can take the place of Persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.” -Ray Kroc
I love that quote. On one hand, the well-known words of McDonald’s legendary founder have never been more timely or applicable. On the other, Sales as a collective profession has never had to work harder or more intelligently in order to secure or maintain business. With the intensity of Q4 upon us, I sometimes wonder what more can we possibly do in an effort to generate incremental success. If the answer to the age old question was to simply work harder, then there would be a direct correlation between hours logged and quota attainment. If only it was that easy, we’d all be working around the clock and retiring early.
Obviously all consistently successful sales people are persistent and determined. Favorable impressions are created and competitive advantages are derived by outworking, outthinking and outmaneuvering your industry. However, knowing that work harder is not a helpful directive, what are some simple things we can do to ensure greater probability of professional success? I have a few suggestions.
1. Manage your energy, a.ka. “Be Here Now”
The first tip is simple and deals with state of mind. Long ago I realized that time in the business day context is a zero-sum game. Conversely, the energy we bring to each and every engagement throughout that same day is potentially boundless. Managing one’s energy correctly and effectively is far more important to personal and professional success than simply managing one’s time. Before anyone suggests I’m dismissing time-management, I’m not. However, effectively filling your calendar or allocating time for projects becomes completely meaningless if you can’t manage the focus and level of engagement you bring to each situation.
Whenever I’m about to participate on a client call or enter into a face-to-face meeting, I think of the famous words of the 1960’s acid-tripping, Harvard psychiatrist Ram Dass: “Be Here Now.” While these three words are the only words of Ram Dass’ extensive canon that I’m actually familiar with, the simple phrase has become a powerful and a familiar mantra for me and those who know me best. I suspect I repeat those words to myself five times a day. I also find myself saying the phrase to my daughters every time we hike our favorite trails in Montana, do homework or even sit down to have dinner. It has become a reminder to focus attention and to honor the people we are with or the situation we are in. The reward is significant because often we will see or hear things most others tend to miss. Whether it is the thrill of watching the girls spot a lone elk sitting quietly under a Montana Larch, or when I seize onto a seemingly irrelevant comment that eventually becomes the foundation of a business fit, the phrase “Be Here Now” has become a catalyst to easing into a receptive mind set. Engage then completely focus and you will have a far greater chance of discovering something remarkable in the otherwise seemingly mundane.
2. Measure, analyze, revise, improve.
Now, on a far more pragmatic level, what organizational recommendations can we make? Well, I’m constantly surprised at how only a few of the companies I speak with seem to be on top of sales performance analytics these days. How well does your sales organization integrate performance data with a skill assessment process?
Just this week I spoke with a Fortune 100 executive responsible for overseeing the learning activities of more than 2,000 sales professionals. Interestingly he described his organization’s sales people as falling into one of two distinct groups. The “Old Timers” wh appear to have been there forever; who are reluctant to change; focus almost exclusively on product and generally sound as if they would make for hideous companions at a cocktail party. And then the “New Breed”, glowingly described as coming from outside the industry, being far more customer centric, while being far more coachable and receptive to new learning activities. (It is important to note that these distinctions had absolutely nothing to do with the sales person’s age, but rather everything to do with their individual mindset resulting from the corporate cultural-osmosis that has been cultivated throughout the years.)
Almost sure I already knew the answer, I asked which of the two groups produced the most top-performers. Surprisingly he had absolutely no idea. Ultimately, I was surprised to learn that this mature sales organization does very little to officially segment its team, define behaviors, analyze success factors, and prescribe meaningful actions to close skill gaps. Was this an anomaly? Not as much as I would have thought.
So there’s your challenge for the month. What tips can you share that help your individual pursuit of success? For managers, what sales analytics are you using and more importantly how do you connect those to meaningful behavior change?
Until next month, good selling.
Will Petruski is myGreenlight’s VP of Sales. Follow him on Twitter @wpetruski.