Up, Down or Sideways: How to Succeed When Times are Good, Bad or In Between
By Mark Sanborn (Tyndale 2011)
What separates the average sales professional from the extraordinary sales professional? What enables one person to become a sales leader while those around her are sales laggards?
In my work with sales organizations, I’ve observed that more often than not it is the difference between common knowledge and consistent application.
Most sales people have access to all the information they need to succeed. The problem is that they don’t consistently act on it.
In my work with sales organizations, I’ve developed a tool to diagnose the barriers to sales performance. The seven levels that I’ll explain in this article will allow you to see where you’re at in your sales career and what you need to do to bash the barriers that are keeping you from doing better.
The Seven Levels
1. You don’t know.
Ignorant is a negatively tinged word, but it simply means to lack knowledge. As the cliché goes, “You don’t know what you don’t know.” It is so commonsensical that you can’t argue the point, can you?
Even the best and brightest students don’t learn everything in school or from their parents, from books, from mentors, or from playing video games (okay, I threw that last one in just for my kids). As adults, it is our responsibility to discover the areas where we need keep learning and growing, whether it’s our work, our finances, or our spiritual disciplines.
Not only that, but sometimes we get bad advice. Sometimes we learn the wrong things, which keeps us from knowing and living out the right things.
Part of life is discovering options and becoming aware of what we need to know. So we keep reading, we keep asking questions, and we keep digging for undiscovered gold.
Experienced sales professionals can serve as mentors to help you identify what you don’t know but need to.
2. You know but don’t believe.
Maybe you just need fresh insights on existing truth. You’ve heard something but you don’t believe it or you don’t think it applies to your situation. You might even accept it at the head level, but not the heart level. You don’t buy in. You don’t internalize it. So you miss it.
Samuel Johnson, the eighteenth-century British author, puts it this way: “People need to be reminded more often than they need to be instructed.” That’s why books like Brown’s (and this one) serve a purpose even when they state what might seem obvious or when they state something that you, at first glance, don’t think applies to your situation.
Maybe you are skeptical about the sale process in your organization and wonder if it will really help you achieve the results you desire. If it is working for others, you need to put your skepticism aside and embrace the program.
3. You know and believe but don’t do.
Very often we know and believe what we should do but we simply don’t do it. In other words, we lack conviction. Beliefs are things you hold; convictions are things that hold you. You can tell me who is important in your life (your espoused belief), but your schedule shows your convictions. The same holds true with what you value and where you spend your money.
We usually know and believe but don’t do for one of three reasons: it seems inconvenient, unnecessary, or difficult.
Consider this conversation between a son and his father:
“Son, I told you to put the dishes away.”
“I know, Dad. I know.”
“I know you know. But you aren’t doing it. I’ve told you three times to put the dishes away!”
The dishes aren’t put away because putting them away creates an inconvenience to a child who has something better to do. And what child can’t find something better to do than put dishes away?
Living out a principle we know and believe also might hit an obstacle if we see it as unnecessary. You might believe in putting money in your 401(k), and you might even have the funds to do it. But if times are good, you might not see the need. So you rationalize that your investments are doing just fine, and you spend the money on something else.
The third reason we know and believe but don’t do is that doing something that’s good for us isn’t always easy. In fact, it’s often difficult.
G. K. Chesterton, the prolific English writer, once pointed out that “Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and not tried.” That’s not just true of Christianity; it’s true of most principles that are valuable. It’s not that they don’t work but that they’re hard. So people stop trying them . . . or never try them at all.
4. You know and believe but can’t do.
Sales knowledge becomes powerful when it is translated into sales skills. If you understand the abstract but can’t translate it into action, you know but you can’t do. When we face this obstacle, we can learn the skill or find someone to help us who has the skills we lack. For example, if you want to become proficient in selling, you probably need to enroll in a course, get a DVD program, or find a good coach.
5. You know and do inconsistently.
Jackson Brown, whose story is related at the beginning of this chapter, quotes this saying about our priorities: “Don’t say you don’t have enough time. You have exactly the same number of hours per day that were given to Helen Keller, Pasteur, Michelangelo, Mother Teresa, Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Jefferson, and Albert Einstein.”
Unfortunately, we too often lack commitment or get distracted from doing the things that are important, and they never become part of our daily routines. What is keeping you from being consistent? Do you procrastinate, rationalize, or waste time online? Determine what’s stopping you, and commit to a change.
6. Know and do consistently.
Finally, you’re getting something done! At this stage you know what to do and you’re doing it. You’re going to the gym on a regular basis. You’re eating dinner together as a family. You’re putting a set amount aside for savings. Of course, we don’t remain here consistently in every area. That’s just life. We can’t have it all, but we can work on the things that really matter.
Getting into this stage requires knowledge, understanding, commitment, hard work, and discipline—all areas I’ll address throughout this book. It’s my hope that by the final chapter you’ll be prepared to work toward this stage and maintain it more consistently, regardless of whether you are Up, Down, or Sideways.
7. Know and make it second nature.
Consistency, while important to our success, isn’t the end of the line. When you know something and believe in it and do it consistently over time, eventually you reach a point where living out the principle becomes as natural as breathing. You don’t have to think about whether to correct the cashier who just gave you too much change; you do it automatically because honesty is part of who you are.
At this stage, what you know is right takes a higher priority than what you feel. Our culture puts a great deal of emphasis on doing what feels right or what feels good rather than what actually is right and good. There are days when I don’t feel like working out but very few days when I don’t want to do it. Exercise is part of my lifestyle. The same can be true in every area of our lives—with enough discipline, the right thing will eventually become second nature.
There are days you won’t feel like making the calls necessary to succeed in selling, but when you’ve ingrained the right sales behaviors into your performance, you’ll find that these second nature habits will help you overcome the lethargy and laziness.
Those are the barriers to bash if you want to be a truly great sales professional. Where are you at today, and what will you do to get better?