You don’t find out who you really are when everything is just fine.
As Warren Buffett said it’s “only when the tide goes out do you discover who’s been swimming naked”.
Standing in front of a large group of Gen Y professionals I needed the right opening story. One that showed off a bit, as you must, but also resonated with people who had 30 or 40 years of work ahead and, with Brexit, had encountered their first significant bump in the road. I chose to go back to 1999, the beginning of my business: to the ribbing I got from friends when I had the temerity to want to go for it. And to how setting specific goals, being hugely optimistic and learning new skills were key to future success.
I could easily have chosen what we did in the aftermath of the big crash of 2008, when our phone never rang for six months and we lost 40% of our business overnight.
(We started teaching business development skills to professionals and have never looked back)
Business development in busy times is shooting fish in a barrel, everyone is good at it. But often it’s simply account management. Account management and sales are not the same, but can appear so when cash is cascading like melted chocolate onto strawberry kebabs at the Awayday Fountain. Account management is minding the shop; sales is getting new customers. Warren Buffet was talking stocks and shares when he opened about skinny dipping, but his words apply equally to sales.
In the eye of the storm you find out who has been doing what needs to be done to make the rain in your business. Who has been bringing new prospects to the fore: making the right shapes to show you are still on the dance floor; going out and getting busy; being curious and empathetic; asking for the business.
In times like this there are important strategic things that need thinking about: I’m thinking of some right now. But so what? Strategic thinking is no substitute for action, so don’t let the big picture blind you from William J Wrigley’s simple truth, “Make a good product at a fair price. Then tell the world.”
Let me be specific. Here are three things you can do, starting today, that will give you a better chance of a piece of whatever is out there:
- Persistence: Attitude is all. Be in the right frame of mind and persist in everything you do: be systematic in your efforts; call, email or send a pigeon; ask for a meeting; go the extra mile; call again; be present in your networks; don’t just say you will follow up, actually do it; and call again.
- Teamwork: Comedian Steven Wright said, “No man is an island, but some are pretty long peninsulas.” Detaching yourself from the team that helps the sales along (you know who they are) will cost you a lot in many ways. Selling is a team sport. Getting to Yes is the best thing when it happens, but getting a No can be tough. Isolationists seem to be de rigeur at the moment, but that’s not a good strategy: share both the successes and the tough times around because you’ll have both.
- Benefits: especially when every pound is a prisoner, you need to show how what you do will make their lives better. You need to be able to tell them in ten seconds or ten minutes in half a dozen different ways. There is a big temptation to default to what you might do TO your prospects rather than FOR them. Work hard to find unique, creative and memorable ways to sell their minty fresh breath and not the fact they might be sticking gum in their face.
There is a terrific line to finish from Nelson Mandela, but it seems trite to quote such an icon in a blog about sales, so let’s go for Billy Ocean: “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.”
A dreadful pop song; a terrific sentiment.
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about the author
Russell Wardrop is our Chief Executive. If you would like to know more about this subject, drop him an email and we will be in touch.