Give Up or Pedal Harder?

Here on Long Island, we caught a lucky break…

when a hurricane downgraded quickly for most of us, and did nothing more than create some spectacular waves for surfers and brought some strong winds. On Monday, after dropping my kids at their mom’s house after a terrific holiday weekend, I decided to get some exercise. I jumped on my bicycle and headed for the boardwalk. I like to ride fast, and on the first part of my ride I was flying, my legs pumping hard and the wind strongly at my back. It felt great as I passed cyclist after cyclist, with occasional glances towards the ocean to see the perfect waves breaking and the surfers having a blast! I had built up a good sweat by the time I got to the end of the boardwalk and turned around to head back, ready for the second half of my ride. As I made the turnaround, however, the wind which was previously at my back struck me full force in the face, and it became a huge struggle to ride. In fact, some of the people who were also riding in that direction had hopped off their bikes and were walking. After about a minute of struggling, the little voice in my head said, “The wind is just too strong…time to walk it,” but the little voice on the “other side” of my brain said, “Nope…it’s time to switch gears and pedal harder…you can do it!” I shifted gears and fought it out, working hard all the way home. Exhausted, as I put my bike back in the garage, it occurred to me that this was a metaphor for those of us who sell or manage salespeople.

It’s happened to almost all of us in sales at some point…things are going along well. We’re setting appointments, meeting with prospects, having great conversations and closing business. We’re doing the things we know we need to do, consistently and with skill. Prospects are turning into customers and money is flowing our way. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, the “wind” smacks us in the face and everything grinds to a halt. No one answers our calls, appointments get postponed or canceled, deals that were a “lock” fall apart. Confidence wanes and income plummets.

In my professional experience, this is the time that many give up. Suddenly they’re looking on for their next sales job (Because, obviously, the reason for their sudden lack of success is the job, not them), and they’re blaming everything and everyone (“My manager sucks” “My company sucks” “Where are the ‘good’ leads?” “The economy sucks” “Our prices are too high” “We’re a commodity” “The competition is blowing us away”) except themselves.

Are there times when the smart move is to get off your bike and walk it? I suppose so, but not usually. Typically, it’s time to switch gears and pedal harder. When things start going wrong, take a look at yourself:

*Have I been prospecting consistently, and using a blended approach, or have I been waiting for the phone to ring?

*Have I been following up with prospects and customers to make them feel special or have I been waiting for them to “come to their senses” and call me to let me know they’re ready to buy?

*Have I been adding value and creating/nurturing relationships or have I been “Showing up and throwing up,” dumping the features of what I have to offer all over my prospects?

If I listened to salespeople and believed what many of them told me, I’d think there are only about 4 days during the year that you can close business. You can’t close business during the summer, because everyone is on vacation. After Labor Day everyone is focused on kids going back to school, not business. Then they’re looking forward to the holidays. Then prospects are saying, “Get in touch after the first of the year.” The it’s right after the holidays and no one is in business mode yet. Then it’s tax time. It seems there’s almost NEVER a good time to close business IF you listen and believe your own excuses.

Our excuses, to ourselves and others, are a crock of crap.

Things aren’t working? Take a look inside. I’m not saying that conditions don’t sometimes make things difficult, but over the past 40+ years I’ve observed that the most successful sales reps are consistent, and when they see things are starting to not work as well as they used to, they are flexible enough to switch gears and pedal harder.


Which do you choose?

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