Lessons learned over coffee

I’ve spent a lot of time on LinkedIn and Facebook, and with individuals, over the past few weeks talking about the #TCSW episodes of Coffee & Closers, the brilliant, in the trenches panel/interview series that is the brainchild of my friend Mickeli Bedore. I have the fantastic honor of being one of the series’ sponsorship partners, which I love because it allows me to geek out on the art and science of sales while also meeting and influencing up and coming salespeople, founders and business owners. The knowledge imparted from the speakers have taught me, inspired me, and validated my ideas as a salesperson and business owner, and left me with some fantastic and powerful takeaways….

No is just the starting point

Scott Litman, multiple-time entrepreneur and founder of the MN Cup, said at one of the events that, in sales, “No is just a continuum to yes.” If you are taking the first no at face value and moving on, you are missing most of your opportunities. No is almost always the default answer from a prospective buyer; yes takes time, money, planning, and resources. Instead of looking at no as the end, it should be seen as the opportunity to dig deeper. What did you miss? What questions did you not answer, what issue or problem did you not solve? How can you more accurately address the needs of your prospective client now that she has declined your initial offer? Use the no to go back to the drawing board, to get better, and to reinvent the product, service or process to more effectively address the issues your customers face.

Keep on proving yourself

Scott Burns, founder of Structural, was asked about why he was still hustling even after all his accomplishments. “Life is not an award ceremony for things you’ve done in the past,” he said. This is especially true in sales, when you are only as good as the last deal you closed. Sales is results-based, not output-based; you are judged by what you accomplished, not just the work you put in. You are not given much time to celebrate a win, which can be frustrating, but you also cannot take too much time to lament a loss, which is empowering. Sales means chasing a number, which means a clean slate and a fresh start every month, quarter, and year. Did you hit your October goal? Congratulations, now get out there and do it again. Did you miss it? Regroup, figure out what you need to do to improve, and get to work on November.

Own, and learn from, your mistakes

Both Scotts talked about failure, and how their failures in the past influenced them. “People say failure is good.” Burns said. “Failure is actually failure. You failed and that is not good, but learning from failure is a good thing.” Concentrate on improving, on getting 1% better each day— a small improvement over the course of time adds up to a significant, positive impact on what you do. “I try to look at everything as if it is my fault,” Litman said. “Having nothing be your fault is a lame way to live life.” He went on to say that he expects the same of his people, which can be viewed as harsh at first, but ultimately is empowering. If you own the mistake, you also own the solution. You have the power to affect the outcome, to find a solution and implement it. If nothing is ever your fault, you will always rely on others to fix things. Growth comes not from failure, but from recognizing, owning and adapting to that failure.

Sales is hard!

Don’t let anyone tell you it isn’t; if someone thinks sales is easy, it just means they got lucky the first time or two. Sales takes work, grit, determination, and a plan. The person who can get a door slammed in his face over and over and keep on knocking is a special kind of person. Sales is a numbers game, yes, but it is more than that. The right plan, and the right process, can tip the numbers in your favor. Know your customers. Understand the issues they face and how you can provide a solution. Know what makes you, your product and your organization unique, and be able to articulate it. Establish who your best prospects are, what they need, and why you are the best solution, and build a plan around reaching them. Then, get to work!

Nothing happens in business until something is sold. Salespeople are the front lines for their companies, and crucial to their companies’ success. Being entrusted to sell your organization’s product or service is a huge responsibility; own that responsibility, and live up to your company’s (and your own) expectations. If this post resonates with you, or you want to learn more about how I work with my clients, let’s grab coffee and talk about it. I look forward to the conversation!

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