Tag Archives: sales

Going from Intentions to Results. Let’s be honest, many of us have great ideas and plans and go into them with the sincerest intentions of seeing them to completion.

Then something always seems to happen to get us derailed and next thing you know weeks and months slip by and those plans get put on the back burner. This message  gives us some great practical advice on how to bring those plans to completion.

Visit any home improvement store on a Saturday morning, and you will see the beginning of hundreds of projects. People gather supplies, get instruction, and consult with professionals to get their game plans in order. Week after week the same scenario plays out. Based on sales, it would appear that these weekend warriors will soon beautify and improve the entire planet.

But reality and results tell another story entirely. A quick look through the garages and basements of many of these great starters would likely reveal the truth about completion: the final ten percent, for many people, is virtually uncharted territory – meaning they never get there.

Carry the accumulation of half-demolished foyers, clogged caulk guns, and piles of debris into the business world, and it’s no different.

The pattern for success in business is to recognize an unsatisfied need, innovate to find and provide a solution, then to expand and repeat the process. Somewhere between innovation and delivery, we find the no-man’s zone known as completion.

I once employed someone who proved to be an excellent initiator but a terrible finisher. She would start a task but get hung up once she encountered an obstacle. When asked why she didn’t get the job done, she blamed someone for not getting back to her or a situation she’d encountered. In short, she didn’t understand how to drive to completion.

What makes completion such a challenge?

Completion forces us to step forward.
For many people, the thought of completing a goal is unsettling – even when the task at hand is unpleasant. Maybe it’s the sense of the ‘known evil’ being preferable to the unknown one. No matter how ornery a project has become, at least it’s a pain in the neck that is familiar. We know that upon completion, we must choose again. We question whether we’ve got the goods needed to accomplish the next challenge.

Completion forces us to step up.
Concluding the current initiative inevitably moves us to a point of “what next?” For success-minded people, the answer to that question always comes in the form of raising the bar. Knowing that an even greater challenge lies ahead can make incompletion insidiously alluring. We know that each completion is followed by a call for even more. We wonder how we will bear up as the stakes are raised.

Completion forces us to step out.
Whether the task at hand is pleasant or not, we become attached to it. No matter how hard it seemed as we first put our hands to the plow, it is now within our comfort zone. It is familiar, and it seems manageable. People generally fear change. We convince ourselves that survival depends on staying inside our circle of competency. Completion represents a not-so-subtle nudge out of that circle.

For many people, incompletion has become a way of life. It takes the form of procrastination, loss of interest, confusion, and frustration. By remaining at the 90% complete mark, we reap the dubious benefits of security, mediocrity, and familiarity.

How can we push forward for completion?

Assess the current situation.
Focus on one task at a time until it is complete. This sounds like an effective solution – on paper. Chances are, though, that your world is more complex than that. However, even with multiple projects and priorities going on at the same time, you can still focus on one idea at a time and then move on. Each new opportunity should be evaluated before you commit. Remember that ‘good’ is the enemy of ‘best’ in your consideration. Does it serve your purpose? If so, engage and then move forward into completion.

Realize that the final 10% isn’t so bad.
Often the final stretch is comprised of unremarkable, monotonous, or tedious tasks. Because they are less than exhilarating, they seem onerous. Reality is that these final milestones are a lot closer, and a lot easier to attain than they seem. These loose ends rarely take the time or energy we fear they will. Just like the sticker on your car’s rearview mirror reads, completion “may be closer than they appear.”

Understand the price you pay for incompletion.
The process of beginning an initiative and working on it requires that you fully engage your commitment, your creative power, and your attention. The deepest recesses of your mind loathe letting go of these commitments. Like an elbow constantly poking into your ribs, your mind will nag you unceasingly about your incompletion. This distraction is often enough to pull you right out of the game when it’s time to take your next step.

Enjoy the rewards of completion.
The marketplace rewards completion. Every purchase of goods or services is immediately and unconsciously evaluated for completion. If you were to go out for dinner, place your order, and then never receive your food, you would complain, refuse to pay, and never want to go there again. If you purchased a car and discovered it was missing some key component, a steering wheel for example, you would refuse to take delivery.

It’s been said that the key to outrageous success is to do what nobody else will do. This brings to the forefront an opportunity to excel through completion, and reap the rewards of your diligence. A quick look around illustrates people’s tendency toward procrastination, loss of momentum, distraction, and incompletion. By committing to completion, you will do what nobody else will do, and the rewards will follow.

Recognizing the prices and benefits of completion may be enough to move you forward. What prize awaits when you push forward for completion? Thanks Mark Sanborn


The Real Secret to Breaking the Ice With New Prospects

I often get asked about using icebreakers to initiate conversations with prospective clients. This morning I received this question from Stephen, “I do sales on the phone. What are some good icebreakers when talking to prospective clients?”

The thing is I hate the term ICEBREAKER. To me it says that prospects and customers are ice cold, frigid people, frozen in place and we as salespeople have to break the ice around them before they will talk to us. I happen to think this is bull. The prospects you call on are just people. They are not cold or frigid. They have emotions and motivations. They have a job to do that likely feeds their family. Your prospects are busy and though this may be a shock, they not unlike you, don’t really like having their day or evening interrupted by a salespeople.

So when you call, there is rarely a warm reception. As soon as they realize you are a salesperson – which is usually after you say something like, “Hi this is Stephen from the widget company, how are you today?” the instinct to get off the phone with you and back to whatever they were doing kicks in.

And while you are talking as fast as you can to keep their attention, they just want to hang up. This has absolutely nothing to do with ice. It has to do with not wanting to spend their precious time speaking to you, which in turn makes you feel rejected, leading you to seek out icebreakers (magic pill phrases), that will somehow make this exchange easier on your emotions.

Instead of worrying about breaking the ice you should be thinking about how to get them into a conversation. Now consider the anatomy of a conversation. It is basically two people who have a common interest, discussing that interest. The best sales conversation is when your prospect is talking about their interest and you are listening. Of course the problem you face, as I just mentioned, is as soon as the prospect finds out that you are selling something their desire to flee kicks in and, unfortunately, there isn’t much you can do about that. What you can do though is to get them to engage by making a short statement that should be of interest and asking a relevant question.

Here is an example: “Hi John. This is Bruce Ellemo from Human Resources Capital Canada. ( fictitious co.) The reason I’m calling today is because I noticed you were hiring salespeople. One of your competitors hires all of their sales talent from Human Resources Capital Canada and I thought this might be of interest to you. Can you tell me how many salespeople you plan to hire this year?”

Did you notice that I didn’t ask, “How are you doing?” There is a reason for this. It is a stupid question because John was going about his morning happily when his phone rang, interrupting his day. Then he realized his mistake in picking up his phone when he learned that a salesperson was on the other end of the line. Suddenly his stress level jumped up a notch and his internal flight mechanism turned on. That’s how John is doing!

This is why I get right down to business telling him who I am, why I called, and asking a relevant question designed to engage him in a conversation. This methodology has three benefits. First it demonstrates that you are a professional and that I have respect for my prospect’s time – save the idle chitchat until you have established a real relationship. Next by asking an easy but relevant question the prospect has an opportunity to discuss something of interest to him. Finally, if there is an objection like, “I’m too busy”, “we’re happy”, or “we don’t have a budget”, I’m going to get to it quickly which will allow me to ask more questions designed to determine if the objections or real or just blow offs.

What all sales professionals need to come to grips with is meeting new prospects by phone or in person is rarely easy. Meeting strangers is always tough and especially so when those strangers don’t want to talk to you. The reality is more prospects will reject you than will engage in a conversation with you. However, the one thing that I know to be true is prospects are people just like you. They don’t want to be tricked, they don’t want to be “ice-broken”, and they don’t want to be manipulated. What they do want is to be treated with respect. And when you give them the respect they deserve and focus on what they want, you’ll be amazed at how well you are treated in return.

Are You a One in Twenty Sales Pro? The Hidden Path to Sales Success….

In my seventeen plus years I have encountered thousands of sales people. The vast majority of them want to do better.  They want the benefits of greater success:  Increased income, greater respect from their peers and managers, and increased self-confidence. Yet, the vast majority of them remain at a level best described as “ordinary.”  They never make the transition to being a true master of their craft. In spite of their desire to excel, few do.  

The reason, for the overwhelming majority of sales people, is that they take the wrong path. Only a few discover the hidden path to sales success.

Let me illustrate: A sales person is concerned about an issue in one of his accounts. It could be that he can’t unseat the competition, or that he’s at risk of losing the business, or that he can’t gain an audience with the right people, or that he’s constantly asked to reduce his price, etc. The list is without limit.

But, while the specifics vary, they almost always revolve around the same theme: The question, in one form or another, is always, “How do I get them (prospect or customer) to do what I want them to do?” The focus is always on the account, the other people, the things outside of the sales person that he/she wants to influence.

I don’t think I have ever had a sales person ask me in these encounters, “How can I change myself in such a way as to impact this situation?” And therein lies the problem.

As sales people, we almost exclusively focus on those things that exist outside of ourselves – the prospects, the customers, the politics, the products, the price, etc. We focus on the externals. And as long as we do that, we will be forever stymied in our desire to become exceptional performers.

We will never reach our potential until we begin to focus inside – on changing and improving ourselves. The hidden path to sales success is the “path less traveled,” the path that traverses the bumpy geography of self-growth and self-improvement – the inward path.

When we focus on self-growth and self-improvement, those changes that we make in ourselves naturally ooze out of us and impact the people and the world around us. To improve your results, improve yourself.

Here’s an example: A sales person recently shared this scenario. He has been trying to penetrate an account in which he had some business, but was a minor player. One or two other competitors dominated the account. He had difficulty even getting an opportunity to present his solutions. He saw his problem as external – the politics, processes and personalities in this account.

I talked with him about his ability to nurture professional business relationships, to uncover hidden concerns and obstacles via effective questioning, to empathize with the key decision makers. In other words, my conversation was about his competencies (internal) instead of the account’s specifics (externals). If he could improve himself to the point where he was more competent at these sales fundamentals, he would be more effective in that account, and the problems he expressed would gradually decrease.

As I reflect on the hundreds of conversations that I have had with sales people and sales leaders, I have concluded that the conversations almost always follow that pattern. They present an external problem, and I reply with an internal solution. The obvious question pops to the surface. Ellemo, is it you? Am I so far outside of the mainstream of reality that I am misleading the people I’m supposed to be helping?

Honestly, I don’t think so. The concept of reaching your fullest potential, of making your greatest mark on this world, by focusing internally instead of externally is a position that all of the world’s greatest thinkers, from King Solomon thousands of years ago, to Mahatma Gandhi in more modern times, have espoused. That concept lies at the heart of the world’s greatest religions, a key part of the world view of Jesus Christ and Buddha.

I’ll often share this quote from James Allen:
“Men are often interested in improving their circumstance, but are unwilling to improve themselves, they therefore remain bound.”

Clearly, unequivocally, the path to achievement and fulfillment is an internal, not an external one. What is true for our lives is true for our professions, and is true for our jobs as sales people.

Yet so few sales people understand that. I’ve often shared this observation: In any randomly selected group of twenty sales people, only one has spent $25 of his own money on his own improvement in the last 12 months. Not coincidently, the same ratio is used to define the superstars of the profession. Five percent (one of twenty) of the sales force produce approximately 50% of the sales.

In a world of externally-focused colleagues and competitors, it is the one in twenty sales person who chooses the hidden path to excellence. These are the people who understand this principal, and who consistently and willfully act on it. They are the ones who buy the books, go to the seminars, listen to the audios, and watch the videos – all in a relentless quest to improve themselves, understanding that the only lasting path to excellence is the hidden path of internally focused self improvement. And these are the people who inevitably rise to the top of the profession.



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