This is March Madness

Ask the Experts

If you’re a sports fan, you already know that “March Madness” refers to the annual NCAA single-elimination college basketball tournament. The month of March also signifies the arrival of a new season, Major League Baseball’s spring training and the promise of warmer weather just around the corner.

It’s worth noting people also have used March Madness to refer to “a form of madness or uncharacteristic behavior said to affect people in March.” As the calendar year matures and you continue to evaluate your new business development efforts, it’s also a good time to examine those “less than productive” behaviors that might be working against you.

For example:

If you’re in sales, it’s madness to assume that you can ever stop prospecting for new business. Let’s agree that no one likes to prospect, but it’s an essential ingredient of your sales success. Your job as a business development professional is to continuously fill your “fishing net” with a full load of suspects, then sort through your catch and throw back the fish that are too small. But you must continuously “cast your net” if you’re hoping for fish to “hop into the boat” or waiting for prospects to contact you, you may go hungry.

It’s madness to think that it’s your job to educate your prospects. If you attempt to educate your prospects by using industry jargon, buzzwords or technical information before determining if your prospect is familiar with those terms, you run the risk of making your prospects uncomfortable. (Chances are they will attempt to eliminate the source of their discomfort: you.)

The rule is: Don’t sabotage your sale with your expertise. It’s far better that you ask questions to determine their issues and concerns, then determine their willingness to mutually arrive at a solution.

It’s madness to think that most of those proposals you submitted to your prospects are going to close. We’re talking about those prospects who say, “I’m very interested,” “I still need to think it over” or “call me next week.” There’s a better-than-likely chance that those prospects will never close but they’re just not comfortable telling you “no.” Continually ignoring the possibility that your product or service may not be the best fit solution, or refusing to take “no” for an answer, will lead you down a dead-end path. You don’t learn how to win by getting a “yes;” you learn how to win by getting a “no.”

It’s madness to assume your prospects are being totally truthful with you. A prospect might claim to be the decisionmaker but then you learn that he must get approval from the chief financial officer. Another prospect says he needs to move quickly on a decision but doesn’t disclose that a decision is three months away. (If you doubt this premise, look in the mirror. How often do you mislead or dodge the question when a salesperson attempts to engage with you?)

If you remember the television series House, the physician had an abiding distrust of patients who are more than willing to mislead the people who are trying to help them, even when their own lives are at stake. “It’s a basic truth of the human condition that everybody lies.” To avoid being misled, you need to ask more questions to confirm each piece of information the prospect is telling you.

And, it’s madness to think that you’ve finally “arrived” as a salesperson and that you can coast on your past achievements. The day that you stop reaching, stop growing and stop learning in your chosen profession is the day that you start regressing. As a salesperson, you are either growing or you are dying and are risking being lapped by your competition. To quote Satchel Paige, the first African American baseball pitcher to play in the major leagues, “Don’t look back. Somebody might be gaining on you.”

As the month progresses enjoy March Madness, but don’t fall prey to these all-too-common sales maladies that can stunt your professional growth and prevent you from attaining the success you’ve been working so hard to achieve.

Jim Marshall is owner and president of Sandler Training of Tampa Bay which provides sales, corporate and management training to high-achieving companies and individuals. Contact him at 813.287.1500 or [email protected]

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