A Miserable Accountant Can Do Great Work; The Same Does Not Apply in Sales

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Years ago I worked for a great sales manager who later became a business partner. Throughout New Sales. Simplified. I share many fun stories about Donnie Williams and the lessons I learned from him. Of all Donnie’s great expressions about Sales, the one I most often repeat is this:

Sales is as much a matter of the heart as it is of the head.

How true! And lately, I’ve found myself confronting senior executives, sales leaders and salespeople who are either ignoring or have forgotten this reality.

I was leading a regional sales team meeting for a client last week. While reviewing the “Not-So-Sweet 16 Reasons Salespeople Fail to Develop New Business”  I intentionally camped out on Reason #7 (negative attitude, pessimistic outlook, victim mentality) to make a few points:

  1. Pessimistic people are rarely successful  (Can you think of one? I certainly can’t)
  2. I have never, ever seen a top-performing salesperson who who viewed him/herself as a victim
  3. To succeed in Sales, particularly new business development Sales, we must be passionate and have our hearts fully engaged

And then, off the cuff, a new thought came to mind and out of my mouth before I could even filter it:

You can be a miserable accountant and still do great accounting work, but that is not the case in Sales.

Salespeople have to “want to” sell. There is no way to prospect for new business successfully if your heart isn’t in it. A miserable salesperson can’t represent his company, solution or himself well. He won’t fight to get in. He can’t woo a prospect. He won’t ask the hard questions, push past resistance, or overcome objections.

I wasn’t really trying to be funny with that comment about miserable accountants. I meant it. Although, I enjoyed the roar of laughter it produced (there are usually some pretty miserable people in accounting departments, right? :-)) There are jobs where you can perform at high levels, in spinte of a rotten attitude or if you hate what you do. But there is no way to win in Sales if your heart’s not in it. No way.

Time for a heart check?

Salesperson: Are you sure you’re in the right job? Do you love what you do? Would others describe you as passionate and fully engaged? Are you playing to win or just going through the motions? Do you see yourself as driving results and personally responsible for your sales success? One of the most dangerous, even deadly, things I’ve been seeing recently is salespeople who have completely disconnected their own behavior from sales performance. They’ve adopted a passive approach and victim mentality. These struggling reps don’t connect their own lack of intensity and activity with their less than stellar results. Really. There is no self-recognition that they are responsible for what happens. Rather, they see themselves as passengers on the Sales Train, riding along back in the coach section, victims, along for the ride, not business drivers.

Salesperson, if that description fits you, then I think you have two choices. The first one is easy. Admit it. Call it what it is. You’re not helping yourself, your company, or even your customers and prospects for that matter. Quit. Move on. Do the sales profession, the economy and yourself a favor, and step aside so a true salesperson who understands what is required can step in to grow the business.

Your other choice is a harder one to make. You can re-engage your heart. Take back the reigns. Accept full responsibility for your results. Decide to win and then play like it. Stop whining and stop hanging around with the whiners on the sales team. Write a business plan and then go execute it with passion. Invest in yourself. Upgrade your skills, intensity and attitude! Chose to fight; chose to win. We’d all welcome you back and be thrilled to have you on the team. What a joy that would be!

Here’s the interesting part. We can’t help you with this. Nope. This is not about coaching or managing. This is all about you. Sure, we can help you sharpen your sales story, pick target prospects, improve your telephone skills or conduct better sales calls. But only you can decide to get back in the Sales game. Only you can change your perspective on who’s responsible for Sales results. You’re the only one with the key to your heart.

There are other jobs where you can be miserable or get away with a “punching the clock” mentality. But not in Sales.


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