Some of you know that I am a golf fanatic. I love the walk through nature, the camaraderie of my golf buddies, and the competition it provides me against the course.
And while I know and accept that it should be a competition between me and the course, it frequently ends up as a competition between me and myself. And sometimes, I don’t take full responsibility for my outcomes on the golf course.
Well, frankly, one cannot take full responsibility. There are too many variables: such as the wind, the divot my ball landed in, the unraked trap, the noise the group made on the next tee as I was putting, the fact that my hand was sweaty and slipped, or the fact that I had the wrong distance figured to the green. The list goes on and on.
In sales, a similar excuse list exists but with different variables: such as the competition undercut our price, that guy was never going to buy from us, the VP didn’t like us, they’ve been doing business with XYZ company forever, we didn’t have the same product they wanted, or they just aren’t ready to buy. And that list goes on and on as well.
Let me go back to my statement that one cannot take full responsibility for outcomes in golf. That is technically true, but the fact that one player finds fault in the external forces at play and uses those excuses to allow for bad outcomes, while another player gets a better outcome by accepting the fact that they can only control their reaction to those situations proves that taking responsibility is still important in golf. The same is true in sales.
Excellent sales managers coach salespeople through internal demons.
Some salespeople use external forces to dictate their success, while others take full responsibility for outcomes, and adjust their behaviors to adapt to the situation rather than accept it. The golfers that don’t take responsibility think too much about the external forces and allow the uncontrollable to control them. They then melt under pressure. The same happens in sales.
On the golf course, as in selling, I may give up too easily if I feel that I cannot overcome the obstacles in my way. And, I have a “legitimate” out. The wind, the noise or the jerk prospect, or those damn competitors.
Here’s how managers can help their salespeople take responsibility.
There are always uncontrollable items at play. We cannot control whether the prospect will meet with us, just like we cannot control the wind on the golf course. However, we can prepare by understanding the needs of the prospect or client. We can plan what will happen if the prospect says, “It costs too much” or “I need to think it over,” just as we can plan what to do if we are slicing the ball on the golf course.
Simply be certain, whether on the golf course or the sales trenches, to focus on what goes on between the ears, not just the words. Excellent sales managers will help coach salespeople through the internal demons, not just the external lay of the land.
Gretchen Gordon is the CEO of Boost Profits, a consulting firm specializing in sales team transformation. A self-proclaimed “Sales Nerd” with over 27 years of sales, sales leadership, and sales team transformation experience, she spends most of her time working directly with client companies and helping them improve their sales effectiveness and exceed their sales goals. Gretchen is also a frequent guest speaker for industry events and webcasts, and has been featured on the radio talk shows “Meet the Sales Experts” and "Sales Coaching over Coffee." She is also an accomplished writer, having been featured on industry-leading sites like SellingPower.com and SecurityInfoWatch.com. She authors a “Top 50 Sales Management Blog,” according to Docurated.com, and has published sales-focused eBooks, including “The 5 Essentials of Effective Sales Management” and “Cold Calling in the 21st Century.”
Find out more about Gretchen Gordon on LinkedIn