Salespeople, do you know the Three Loneliest Places on Earth?

It's not the Antarctica, the Australian outback, or the Gobi desert. In fact, it may be exactly where you are right now, in one of these three solitary situations:

1. Staring at your screen, substantially under target and not knowing how to fix it.

Everyone's a hero when the phones are ringing, inboxes are lit-up with inbound leads, and the product hits a positive groove. However, when the chips are down and the noise falls away, people typically turn against each other and look for a scapegoat to place the blame. Many blame the product, a lack of leadership or bad luck, and some are quick to jump ship. These are all justifiable responses, but what happens if the cycle repeats itself, which it so often does? Very few dig in, dismiss the negativity of peers, and have a defined strategy to work through adversity. These difficult times are when you realise just what kind of salesperson you are.

2. Being in a critical meeting, getting pummelled with questions after having failed to prepare adequately.

Have you ever seen a rabbit in the headlights? Try presenting to one, or a group of, senior decision-maker(s) having failed to prepare adequately. In just a fraction of the time to book the meeting, the salesperson becomes professional roadkill and closes the door on the customer forever.

3. Being subject to a change in company policy that detrimentally impacts your ability to earn.

Have you ever had a colleague who constantly projects negative energy? Perhaps one that is desperate to leave the company, is in a deep depression because of a change to their commission plan, has been demoted for unjust political reasons, or are locked-in with equity? The problem is that they cannot afford to leave, despite their justification for doing so, because it has unrecognisably changed. It's a horrible place to work, but they are expected to hustle for the company, despite being taken advantage of by the very people who are profiting significantly at their expense. It doesn't get much lonelier than this.

Breaking the Cycle

If you ever needed convincing that adequate preparation and a defined selling strategy are necessary, visualise yourself in one of these three places. The good news is these situations can be avoided, or overcome, by a change of perspective.

Here are some techniques to help gauge whether you are adequately prepared to win consistently:

1. Play the "What if...?" game.

At every point of customer contact, change roles with the customer. Research their company and individuals on every level before a meeting. Re-run your presentation and, as a group, identify objections and direct answers to obvious questions. Along with this, and sister to the "What if..." game, is the "So what...?" game. Role-play meetings and have your team shout "So What?" every time you fail to be apparent and valuable in what you’re saying.
Be crystal clear on the unique selling points of your product or offering and how they apply to each pitch. Quantify your entire territory and potential revenue, work backward from your target, and identify every step required to achieve it. This will keep your focus away from external distraction and the sheep mentality.

2. Stop looking to everyone else for answers.

Your target is not anyone else’s responsibility, so take ownership of your sales process. Have your ever heard a colleague repeatedly moan about the same thing? After a short time, it becomes hard to empathise and, if you allow it, detrimental to your productivity. Address the situation you are in and plan to work through it.

3. Ask the people who really matter to guide you.

For me, it’s my customers; I’m not only their trusted partner, but they are mine. I care for them and likewise, they care for me. Confiding in your clients both personally and professionally can benefit you immensely and, if you ever find yourself in any of the previous three places, in my opinion, the best person to ask is the person you are serving. A caveat to this is that you must have a trusted relationship to have conversations like these, therefore, benchmarking the depth of the question with the depth of the relationship. For example, you wouldn’t ask a brand new connection, of only 2 weeks, for marriage advice.

4. Find opportunity where others don't.

There’s no point in doing what everyone else is doing when it clearly isn’t working. Altering your strategy from a losing behaviour to a winning one is important here. Identify the holes and plug them. Are leads not being adequately responded to? Is your pitch too aggressive? Is your boss not giving you enough guidance? Own it. Ask your customers why they are not buying, and ask how to improve. Build-in a process that identifies opportunities outside of your current product. You can do this by setting up exploratory meetings to create a wider discussion of your customer’s business challenges, and how you can tackle them together.

5. Create a positive feedback loop, not a negative one.

Being locked-in to a company and not seeing a way out, is difficult. However, positive steps are required to detach from the perceived injustice of the situation. Naturally, you may want to seek others in similar positions to empathise with, so that you can wallow in self-pity together. Although empathy from others in the same situation feels good, it also affirms your beliefs and locks you in a negative rut. Look for those in more positive positions and seek to emulate both their positive outlook and processes to improve yourself. Find a mentor who has worked through this, can help you get a grip, and can guide you out of the situation. Your behaviour makes you sub-par, so countering this involves improving your skill-set, gaining demonstrable results, and negotiating a better package elsewhere. It’s easy to join the masses; however, salespeople don’t just need to differentiate themselves to their customers, but they must do so everywhere.

Sound perspective is the key to overcoming sales-related obstacles.

"The ability to detach from a situation, to self-reflect, and to take ownership are all techniques of the very best salespeople." (Tweet)

If you need convincing, look around you. Do you hear the top salesperson in your company desperately moaning? No, because they make decisions that won't put them in that situation. It isn't magic; it's a mindset, a process, and a methodology that works best in their unique sales situation. Copy it, learn from it, and, perhaps most importantly, do it even better.

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