Is it helpful to send an introductory letter to each person telling them you will be following up with a phone call? In this video you’ll find the answer is not as cut and dry as you might think.
If you want to learn how to get in the door and close more business, attend my webinar, “Prospecting Skills to Increase Your Sales,” on Thursday, August 18th, 2011 at 12 Noon EST..
Anyone who knows me knows I have one really bad vice: Baseball. I’ll watch any baseball game. But more specifically, I’m an out of control fan (sufferer) of the San Francisco Giants and have been since 1957 when they were the New York Giants.
Baseball has something called “The Sophomore Jinx.” Throughout its long history, baseball has seen hundreds, if not thousands, of rookies have great success in their first season only to die a horrible death in their second season in the major leagues: hence, “The Sophomore Jinx.” Some of these players recover and go on to have great careers (Giants Hall of Famer Willie McCovey immediately comes to mind), while many others just fade into oblivion.
This is happening right now with one of the Giants best young hitters, Pablo Sandoval. Last season, his 1st in the majors, he was one of the best hitters in the National League. This year, his performance has dropped off a cliff. Not only has his hitting died, but his fielding is worse and his conditioning, while never the best, is downright atrocious. With the Giants in the middle of the playoffs (this could be our year!), he’s been benched.
I bring this up, because while watching the Giants whip the Braves in the 1st playoff round, I was having a discussion with my Father-in-Law, Charlie Romano, on whether or not salespeople suffer from “The Sophomore Jinx.” To me, the answer is a resounding “YES!”
As with ballplayers, I’ve seen hundreds, if not thousands of salespeople have excellent 1st years only to see their production plummet in year two. The problem is: many salespeople (and ballplayers) relax after that first taste of success, because they don’t understand that all the time, energy, effort and commitment it takes to get to the top, are the same things you have to do every day just to stay on top.
Many 1st year “sales wonders” actually believe that after one very good year they’ve “Paid their dues,” and now it gets real easy; the customers will just come to them. Imagine their surprise when it doesn’t quite work out that way and year two turns into one HUGE bust? At this point, they could go in one of two directions.
One, they could take the attitude that the majority of “Sophomore Busts” take and say, “You can’t make a living in this business,” totally ignoring all the successful people that are making a great living in the same business, and quit. This attitude absolves them of all responsibility for their actions (or in the case of year two; non-action). It’s the industry’s fault, not theirs.
Or, they could do what successful salespeople do and go back to the things they were doing every single day that worked for them as rookies; things like consistent, every day prospecting and lightning-quick follow-up. In addition, just like great ballplayers, they’ll make adjustments. Great salespeople look at how their market or customers may be changing and make adjustments accordingly.
They’ll look at what their competition is doing and do something different to make them stand out. They’ll be visible and talk to prospects and customers every day while competitors hide from the “soft economy.” Instead of worrying about the size of the sale, they’ll concentrate on how good the sale is for the customer and how it will drive repeat business and expand market share.
Instead of using the economy as an excuse, they’ll use it as a weapon, by becoming consultants to their clients and giving them ideas and solutions on how to increase THEIR business, which, in turn, means more business for them.
So, if you’re currently suffering from “The Sophomore Jinx,” or have someone on your staff who is, have faith. This is not an incurable disease. However, it can only be cured by action.
I have a good friend and fraternity brother, Dr. Alan Zaremba, who is a Professor of Communications at Northeastern University in Boston. Many years ago, to stay in shape, he started running. It almost became an obsession with him. He ran so much and so often that he started running marathons. When I asked, “Why are you running so much and why marathons,” he said, “So that I can eat like a pig.” The moral of the story: Everybody is motivated by something different, and, people do things for their reasons, not yours.
As a manager, executive or business owner, assuming all the people that report to you are the same and are all motivated by the same things, is not only stupid, it’s lazy and counterproductive.
Would you assume that all your clients are the same? Better yet, if you have kids, especially if you have more than one, I’ll bet there’s no way you can tell me your kids are exactly the same.
I know my kids, Michael, 23 and Emily, 19 are as different as night and day. Michael is part leader, part non-conformist. He’ll do something just because nobody else is doing it. I’m convinced that if underage drinking and illegal drugs were something high school kids NEVER did, Michael would’ve been stumbling home drunk and high every day. Luckily the opposite was true.
Emily, on the other hand, is a follower, and while she’s gotten much better since starting college, she’s still WAY more comfortable as part of a group. She’s extremely social (alright she likes to party), has had boy friends (notice the plural) since 9th grade, is a member of a sorority, and is far more likely to let someone else lead.
Michael, while a friendly and well-liked person, who maintains a small circle of friends, is a bit anti-social. He has no problem doing things on his own. When he was in college, no way he was joining a frat. He lives by himself in an apartment in New York. He likes to go to concerts, restaurants and movies by himself.
Michael is so cheap he can make a dollar bill yell “Uncle.” He not only supports himself in NYC on an entry level salary, but he’s saving money. Emily has a black belt in shopping.
Michael likes baseball, music and eating (a lot). Emily likes shopping, Broadway musicals, hanging with friends and her boyfriend and going to parties.
Does this make one kid better than the other? No way. They’re both great kids. It just means they’re different and they’re motivated by different things.
When Michael graduated high school, his gift was a trip to San Francisco to see the Giants play (3 games; we won 2), and stuff his face in some great restaurants.
When Emily graduated high school, we took her to London, where she had a great time spending a week visiting with her brother (who was there on a study abroad program), hitting every store on Oxford Street and seeing “Jersey Boys.”
If all your incentives and rewards are the same for everyone, how do you get them all excited about it? Guaranteed there’s a huge percentage of your staff who couldn’t care less about contests you might think are fantastic.
If you’re not willing to invest some time knowing what makes each one of your people tick, the same way you spend time trying to understand the specific needs of each client, why should your people care one bit about the needs of the company or the clients?
Most sales forces break down into three groups: The top 10 percent are self-motivated achievers; The bottom 10 percent should be fired; and the other 80 percent are totally average. The difference between a successful sales manager and an unsuccessful one is how the manager deals with all three groups. Learn how in my latest article appearing this month in Sales Force XP magazine.
One theme I spoke on is how being a great manager or leader is a lot like being a great parent (Of course, in my experience as both, I’ve noticed you hear a hell of a lot more whining as a manager). I talked about 8 keys to creating self-motivated people that work for your staff as well as your kids. One of my favorites keys is: “Expect the best.”
When you expect the best from people and not only communicate that fact, plus let them know you have confidence they can do it, you’ll be amazed at how often you get the best. The opposite is also true.
Have you ever witnessed a parent who tells a child, “You’ll never amount to anything. Everything you touch turns to crap?” Then, some years later they get a call telling them their kid’s been arrested and they’re amazed. What are you amazed about? You predicted it! You should be proud. You were right!
Years ago, I had a boss who taught me everything about how NOT to be a great leader. He held sales meetings Friday afternoon at 5:30PM. His purpose was to ruin our weekends. Every meeting started the same way. We would sit in his office, silently, while he sat behind his desk staring at us for about 30 seconds. Finally, he’d look up and say, “I just want youse guys (Brooklyn native) to know, youse all suck!”
What a motivator! You just wanted to run through a brick wall for this guy. He was so clueless that one day he had the nerve to ask me, “Why is our turnover so high?”
What did he expect? People will ALWAYS rise or fall to your level of communicated expectation.
Let me tell you about my daughter, Emily.
Emily turned 19 last month. She is a sophomore at High Point University in High Point, NC and is doing great! Her grades are better than they’ve ever been (all A’s and B’s). She is an active member of a sorority; has a job on campus; is active in campus activities and is really taking advantage of the entire college experience. In addition, she’s a pleasure to be around and is just a really great kid, who I have high hopes for. However, that wasn’t always the case.
From 8th grade through high school Emily was a swift pain in the butt. She was your typical surly, moody teenager. As a student she was, at best, disinterested, at worst, the part of the class that makes the top half possible. Have you ever gone to a parent/teacher conference and asked your kid just before you walk in, “How’s it going in this class?” They say, “Fine,” and then the first thing the teacher hits you with is, “Emily is missing 11 assignments!” Don’t you love those conversations?
Normal conversations (both mine and Linda’s) with her would go like this: “How’s school Em?” “Fine.” “Anything happen today.” “No.” “Have any homework.” “A little.” There were the screaming matches too. “I hate you.” “You hate me.” “None of my friends ever have to do that.” Or, of course, “My friends get to do (or have) ________, why can’t I?” That one bugged me so much I finally said, “Hey Em, how come you never say, “My friends get all A’s, how come I don’t?”
There was the usual sneaking out of the house stuff. The friends we never got to meet and the ones we did know but weren’t crazy about and of course, the boys (it doesn’t help that Em is a very pretty girl). To sum it up, Em was a “Valley Girl” who was going to major in “Shopping Mall.”
We threatened her; punished her; grounded her; took away privilege upon privilege; bailed her out (not jail, but school) and let her sink. Finally, we’d just throw up our hands and say, “Well, at least she didn’t fail. A “C” is not bad.” We had low expectations and Emily was just as happy to fulfill them. She loved playing the dumb, clueless blond. But then, late in her senior year of high school, it all changed.
The Turning Point
For eleven years Emily had been a member and captain of the Bouncing Bulldogs Rope Skipping Team. Every year the team has an End of Year Banquet, where the graduating seniors give a speech. In Em’s senior year she was one of five girls graduating; three of them top students going on to big time schools. Linda and I were worried that Em was going to “Fall on her face.”
I told her I would not write the speech for her but I’d help her with the editing and coach her. Two days before the banquet I asked how the speech was coming. She screamed, “I don’t know what to write.” Finally, I told her just write what you feel. Talk about your experiences and all the friends you’ve made.
The next day Emily hands me a copy of the speech to edit. I was blown away. I said to Linda, “You’re not going to believe this, it’s great! There’s nothing to edit.” I told Em I loved it, gave her 2 to 3 minutes of coaching and that was it.
The night of the banquet she blew the place away. It was amazing. She was funny, poignant and poised. Eye contact: perfect. Ability to deliver a punch line: phenomenal. There were people asking me if I wrote it (NOPE). Did I coach her for weeks (NOPE; 3 minutes). It was all Emily.
The next day I sat her down and said, “Em, you blew your cover. The jig is up. After that performance you will never again convince us that you can’t do ANYTHING you put your mind to. The dumb blonde routine is not going to work on your mother and me, because last night, you blew it.
So here’s the deal. The bar has been raised and you’re the one who raised it. From now on a C is not acceptable. Your mother and I will only accept A and B work because we’ve seen the kind of A+ work you’re capable of. You blew away every one of those girls who were SUPPOSED to be smarter and more articulate than you.
I stated earlier, Emily knocked it out of the park her freshman year, so I sat her down and we decided to raise the bar ever higher in this, her sophomore year and she’s living up to all the expectations and more, which is no surprise to me.
Far too many people in this world suffer from the disease of low expectations. Whether you’re a parent, manager, business owner, teacher or anyone else in a leadership position; expect the best from people. Communicate that fact to them and let them know that YOU KNOW they are more than capable of doing and being the best and you’ll amazed at how often you get the best. That too is a self-fulfilling prophecy.