We must make a conscious choice to grow in ability and wisdom. Making a conscious decision to grow means taking advantage of every opportunity we are given to learn more about ourselves and the changing world. Making such a choice is a must for a leader, someone who is seen as a model for influencing others to be open to new directions, and someone who wants to continue to be effective at influencing others.
Everyone has problems. They may not have them to the same degree or at the same time, but everyone certainly does have them. It can be easy to think that we have problems and others don't. Of course, we don't see what goes on behind the scenes. At a holiday get-together, I glanced around at the people there; some I knew and some I had just met. Some of the people I knew were facing personal challenges. And I knew I had faced my own as well. It made me realize that I was seeing only what people were willing to let others see.
It's up to us to find a way to make the best of situations that we can't rationalize or understand. Adversity can build character.
Everyone makes mistakes—the trick is to avoid making the same ones repeatedly. Learn from yours, and from others' mistakes as well. Make "original" mistakes if you are going to make any. When others make mistakes, your reaction will factor into whether they will take another risk when they do something for you. Most of us know when we have made a mistake. We like to be supported when it happens. We don't like to have it pointed out. If it is pointed out, how it is pointed out becomes critical.
" The key thing is, if you make a mistake, have the courage to fix it quickly. I do think the price of inaction is far higher than the cost of making a mistake."
—Meg Whitman, former CEO, eBay
There's a big difference between perfectionism and striving for perfection. Striving for perfection means continuing to eliminate the little problems that keep a process, product, or service from surpassing the expectations of the customer. Perfectionism is compulsively trying to do something perfectly, even when it doesn't matter. Perfectionists drive themselves and others crazy. They waste time.
Humor relaxes people. It helps people relate. If you have a gift for using it in the right way, that's great. If not, it's something you can develop. Humor isn't about jokes; it is about looking at the absurdity in a situation. In tense situations, when someone comments on the obvious, people relax and move past the sticking point.
When people don't reach their goals, procrastination is often the culprit. It robs energy, wastes time, and increases stress. Sometimes people procrastinate because they'd rather be doing something more enjoyable. Sometimes it's because they think they are not going to like what happens if they take action.
Salespeople often naturally procrastinate when it comes to such things as paperwork. One salesperson never submitted expense vouchers because he couldn't be bothered filling out the reports—he preferred to just pay the expenses out of his own pocket. Actually, depending on the expenses involved, he might have been better off not spending the time to submit the report, but I suspect that over time these expenses added up to thousands of dollars in travel-related and client-related expenses. A better alternative could have been to have someone else do them.
While not submitting expense reports can affect the salesperson's bottom line from the expense side, not doing a good job at market development will affect the revenue side. This can spell the difference between success and failure.
Prospecting and cold calling are two activities that can be put off for a variety of reasons:
It's not the right time
No good list to work from
Too much paperwork involved in followup
Too busy taking care of current business
Fear of rejection
Fear of acceptance (having to do the work and to prove oneself)
It seems easier and more productive to develop more work with existing customers than spend time developing new customers, but the problem is that you will experience customer turnover. Customers move to different jobs, retire, or decide to use different suppliers. Companies are bought out, and new management often has preferred suppliers.
Keeping new customers in the pipeline is the only way to ensure viability. Besides keeping your pipeline full, prospecting and cold calling allow you to shape your business by targeting your efforts at those customers who best fit your customer profile.
True procrastinators can always find a reason to put off what they are supposed to do. When people procrastinate, they are not putting off low-value projects. That is good time management. Rather, they are putting off things they know they should or must do: things that will add value to their work or personal lives or things that will diminish worry.
What are the consequences of procrastination?
Worry and distraction
Lost time and energy
When you tackle the things you fear the most, you grow personally and enhance self-esteem. When you procrastinate, you are still doing the thing you are putting off. How? You are doing it over and over in your mind. I can attest to this with a personal example. One time my electric garage door opener broke. I went out right away to replace it with a new one. I brought it home and opened up the boxes. The installation instructions were on a multipanel foldout with diagrams, arrows, letters, and numbers. I looked at it and said, "I don't want to read this right now. I'll do it later." Three months later, I still hadn't installed it. But winter was approaching, and I knew if I didn't get it done now I would soon have to get into a cold car each day. When I opened the boxes and placed the parts on the floor, I had a great sense of relief.
Every day during those three months I had been thinking about installing the garage door opener. Every time I walked by the garage, every time I went into the garage, every time I had to open the garage door by hand, it was on my mind. When I finally began the job of installation, I felt relieved. It took less than two hours to complete, but I had spent even more time thinking and worrying about doing it.
Whether you call it prospecting or business development or market development, to be successful as a sales professional, we know we must develop a constant supply of new customers. Why? Even if you have a base of repeat customers you can rely on for steady business, customers move on. People change jobs, companies have budget cutbacks or go out of business. What is the turnover in your customer base from year to year? Would it be safe to assume 10 to 20 percent? If so, you need to add one to two new customers for every ten existing customers just to stay even.
Developing your potential market is a lot like developing muscles: it takes effort, it takes stretching, and it doesn't happen by sitting on the sidelines and waiting for the phone to ring.
Here's something I hate to admit: by nature, I'm a procrastinator. I have to be extra disciplined in certain areas to avoid procrastinating. One activity I have a tendency to put off, and it is a critical one, is prospecting and cold calling. Not that I can't do these things and not that I don't enjoy doing them when I do them. I prefer working with clients as opposed to finding them. I like the conceptual challenge of designing a training, speaking, or organizational solution for a client, and this is where my expertise is greatest. But I know enough to supplement my own efforts at finding clients with those of others. I also reach out to prospective new clients by such vehicles as writing articles and referrals. If you are like me at all, you'll need to be extra disciplined in certain activities that you know you need to do to be successful but don't find as enjoyable as certain other activities.
I've found it easy to invent ways to avoid prospecting and cold calling. For me the most common technique is to stay busy with other relevant business activities, such as taking care of existing business. This offers the convenient excuse to avoid picking up the phone. To stop procrastinating, schedule a set time or times to get on the phone.
Back up your phone time with advanced marketing strategies. Decide whom your best customer prospects are, describe what you have to offer them that is unique and gives them results they want, and then look for creative ways to grab their attention and stand out from the crowd to get noticed, such as creating engaging social media content. One lesson which cannot be ignored in recent years is how dynamic the communications ecosystem has become when trying to reach existing and potentially new customers. The use of Facebook, Google, and Twitter among many other digital avenues offer a continually evolving landscape full of opportunities for those enterprising enough to take advantage of them.
How do you expand your customer base? Prospecting, cold calling, referrals, physical mailings, and broadcast email are all common ways that sales professionals reach out to new customers. Support your efforts with other techniques, such as advertising or publicity, news releases, articles, and seminars, whether using conventional or digital mediums.