Part one of a look on how to overcome sales challenges…

Identifying the obstacles that keep us from achieving sales success is critical to figuring out how to overcome them. I define sales success as a 50+% closing ratio and continually building a network of referrals from satisfied customers. This takes a lot of understanding and intentional training in all the critical areas of the sales process. Sales success, when viewed properly, is hard, and requires great effort and skill development to attain and sustain a high level of accomplishment. Everything we do either moves us closer to – or further away from a sale. Xenophon, a military and political leader in ancient Greece pointed out where to focus to remove any obstacles hindering our careers: “Your obstacles are not rivers or mountains or other people; your obstacle is yourself.” This is good news, now we know where to focus for solutions. I have observed the 7 Deadly Performance Obstacles that keep sales people from reaching their full potential:

The average Brit spends over 4.5 hours a day on their smart phone, this is on top of whatever computer time or television viewing occurs. The outcome of this is growing data reflecting the increasingly detrimental effects:
• Anxiety and Depression
• Sleep Disorders
• Social Comparison – leading to constant need for validation and creating a dependency None of these are going to help us achieve sales success, but the biggest obstacle it creates is a complete focus on the moment, swiping, looking, responding, which creates a pattern and rhythm of short-term thinking, adverse for Salespeople due to the fact it focuses on the immediate gains (even if just a dopamine hit) rather than long term growth. Long term thinking allows salespeople to build relationships with customers, establish trust, and create a loyal customer base.

The first step is to recognise the seriousness of the issue, that it isn’t working in our best interests, and develop a plan to mitigate the downside. I maintain that we ALL have some level of addiction with our phones that we need to deal with. The beginning for me was NEVER consuming news on my phone, and a much-heightened awareness of the control it had on impacting my habits. Other well documented tips:
• Track your screen time and usage habits
• Make your phone less convenient, keep it out of reach
• NEVER pull it out during a meal
• Set boundaries – this isn’t easy (thus the huge problem) and my question for everyone who tells me they can’t is: “Who is in charge???” We have to start.

The very most effective antidote I have experienced for salespeople is top Prioritise skill development:
• *Set long term goals and priorities that align with your personal and professional growth
• *Invest time and resources in skill development such as attending workshops, taking courses, reading or listening to books, educational podcasts, and seeking out mentorship with someone who has an attitude, skill, or disposition you want to cultivate in yourself.
• * Prioritize self-care and mental health to avoid burn out and maintain focus on long term goals.
Our brains are not designed to take in an endless stream of information from these devices, it hinders us and negatively impacts our ability to make good decisions.
What we allow in our minds today impacts our performance tomorrow.

We are all familiar with FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) – even more deadly for salespeople is FOPO – Fearing Other People’s Opinions. While this is a natural human trait, to look for social validation and a sense of belonging and acceptance, when taken too far our self-esteem and confidence can be negatively impacted. It also sets us up to compare ourselves with others, and comparison is the root of all dissatisfaction.
For salespeople, the obstacle is that when our self-esteem and confidence is caught up in how we think others see us, we hesitate (or refuse) to attempt to learn and practice new skills or techniques because we aren’t fully proficient and don’t want to be a “rookie” and to be judged as such.

Ed Catmull, co-founder of Pixar Films (Toy Story/Nemo/Cars/Incredibles etc..) said that every single film they have ever made – the first time they watched it – it ‘sucked’. They knew and expected that, and their job from that point on, was to make it ‘unsuck’.
We have to view new skill development in the same way – what it is initially, and what it will be eventually, with a focused and sustained effort.

Self-Reflection. First, we have to realise and internalise that other people’s opinions are outside of our control. What IS in our control is our Thoughts, Choices, Speech, Actions and Reactions. That’s it, nothing else.

We have to associate ourselves with people who support and encourage us. A successful sales career is hard under the best of circumstances; having drama or negativity in our lives makes it seem impossible sometimes.
Positive Self-Talk and Self Care. When we don’t feel good our outlook and decision making is seriously compromised. Physical and Mental fitness is a must for long term success.
Reframing. Negative or fearful thoughts have to be reframed as growth opportunities. Thoughts are not facts; they can be manipulated to our benefit.
Growth Mindset. No one is going to make us learn or grow, actually the opposite is occurring in most cases. We have to decide that to achieve the next level (whatever that is for us as individuals) we are going to have to continue to learn and develop our knowledge and skills, regardless of what anyone around us is doing.
Don’t be afraid to be a “Rookie”. Every great performer was a novice at some point.
Let the favourable opinions of others be a result of the consequences of our actions, not our aim.

Salespeople get, sometimes deservedly, a bad rap.
There was a survey done where the audience was asked to provide a word that described what they thought when they heard the word “Salesperson”. The top answers? “Pushy”, “Yuck”, “Difficult”, “Annoying”, “Ugh”, “Sleazy”, “Dishonest”.
Ouch. The upside of this reality is the very low bar we can step over to provide a different experience, but the downside is that when this is the perception of our work and career, that we aren’t universally respected or taken seriously, we have a tendency to also not respect the role or take it as seriously as we should.
Thus, the Obstacle – a lack of Comittment can have a negative effect on our Personal and Professional growth because when we lack Comittment we are less likely to be motivated to take action towards our goals and aspirations leading to a sense of stagnation and lack of progress in our lives.

This boils down to standards. We are going to have to set Standards for ourselves, and then live up to the standards, and it starts with the basics.
John Wooden, legendary basketball coach only had three rules if you wanted to be on the team:
#1 – Be on time
#2 – Be neat and clean (in appearance and speech)
#3 – Never criticise a teammate (or competition) The great thing about these – they do not require any specialized skill – nor do these:
#4 -Strong Work Ethic
#5 – Good Energy
#6 – Positive Attitude
#7 -Being Coachable
#8- Being Prepared
#9 – Consistent Effort
These are just the beginning of a ‘commitment and respect’ to the work – bring that every day and see what transpires for you and your company.
If you are going to do anything – the ‘all-in’ version is what is going to provide the greatest payback.
Commitment is where the ‘magic’ is for our careers, where we can see and experience progress that is otherwise never visible.

Prejudging in sales is to form an opinion about the prospect before knowing or considering all the facts. The common mistakes are doing this based on the prospect’s car, clothes, speech, gender, questions (or lack of) and their general knowledge.
Forming any opinion, for these or other reasons, without facts, can torpedo our sales efforts by leading to a lack of understanding and trust, ultimately affecting the sales process negatively.
Prejudging Prospects = Missed Opportunities.

This is one of the biggest unacknowledged problems for salespeople, and was #1 on my list for many years, and like most of the solutions for overcoming these obstacles, the answers are simple, just not easy.
Two words to solve the problem: Humility and Curiosity.
Humility in the aspect of suspending judgement of the prospect in advance, regardless of how many previous similar situations you have encountered, and realizing and accepting you literally do not know anything about this “next” opportunity.
Then genuine Curiosity that is satisfied by great questions, that expose and illuminate the knowledge we need to even know how to proceed with our presentation, what questions to ask, and how to provide the best solution.
Great questions with Active Listening not only tell us everything we need to know, it helps us build rapport and establish trust with the prospect, both critical aspects to any sale.
This approach immediately humanises the sales process and instantly combats the bias towards salespeople, moving us one step closer to the sale.

Effort Today Enterprises