It’s a rainy afternoon on a typical mid week afternoon and the telesales team isn’t firing on all cylinders. Cedric really isn’t pulling his weight at all. He’s been pushing papers around his desk for most of the afternoon and is having a miserable time. His sales figures are below target, his call statistics are below average and he knows that winning the lottery is as likely as him turning it around before the end of the month. John the sales manager also knows that Cedric isn’t performing and decides to run a coaching session with him to try and sort things out. So far so good.
John and Cedric sit down and start to chat. John has read a few books on management and he knows that it’s important to empathise and listen to John. After a bit of preamble and a few good questions the two of them actually begin to get quite honest with each other. We pick the conversation up about here…
C: “Well you know. I guess that I’m just not reaching enough new clients. "
J: “OK. I respect your honesty. What do you think that we could do about that?"
C: “Well I don’t think that it’s a case of we, I guess that I am just going to have to reach them aren’t I. "
J: “Do you mean more cold calling?"
C: “I suppose so. "
J: “We mentioned earlier that you need to get 5 visits a week. Based on your ratios how many calls would you need to make to get that?"
C: “25 contact calls or thereabouts. Sometimes a bit less, sometimes a bit more. 30 to be on the safe side I think. "
J: “Can you do that?"
C: “Yes. I have to don’t I or I’ll be back in here. We don’t want that!"
J: “No, we don’t. Are we agreed that’s what you need to do then?"
C: “Yes. "
J: “Do you need anything else from me?"
C: “No that’s fine. Thanks John. "
Fairly common conversation from my experience. John feels pleased that he’s helped out and Cedric returns to his desk knowing what he has to do. In most cases I would suggest that he probably does intend to do it. Cedric might even get on the phone and manage to make the calls for a few days but reasonably quickly it all falls down. Why?
As human beings we are driven by our emotions not by our willpower. I’m going to say this again because I think it’s worth saying; as humans we are driven by our emotions not by our willpower. Just think about it for a second. Has there ever been something that you wanted to do, something that you rationally planned to do, something that you knew you knew you ought to do but then, for whatever reasons, when it came down to it you just didn’t do it? Of course there has! Good examples might be dieting, flossing, cleaning the house, going to the gym and telesales!
Let’s say for example that you know that you need to floss every day. After visiting the dentist you sit down and decide to do it. For a few days you floss but as time passes you start to become less consistent until you don’t floss at all. Now there will be those of you who did floss and are saying to yourselves, “Well that’s not right Gavin, I do floss!" Think of something else then. There will be something. Most of the time our internal representations decide how we feel irrespective of what our conscious brain has decided. What about smoking? How hard do many smokers try to give up yet their emotions constantly overpower their willpower?
Cold calling and telesales are much the same. Many salespeople know that they should be cold calling on a daily basis but when it comes down to it they make excuses and do something else. They may even end up feeling really bad about this (or not in some cases!) but it doesn’t make a jot of difference! Ultimately we are driven by our emotions not by our conscious willpower. We all have our own internal constructs of the world and we act in accordance with them all of the time. Our feelings and our behaviours will always be in accordance with our internal construct.
"So what’s the point then Gavin if we can’t take conscious control?"
Great question! A little bit negative (we’ll talk about that later) but great question none the less. When we understand, control and choose what happens inside we take control of the world’s most super computer – our brain. If you have read personal development, NLP or motivation books you may have seen explanations of logical levels similar to the one below. I think this is the best way of explaining, understanding and controlling our internal construct and representations.
Feelings & Emotions
Behaviour cold calling / face to face / presenting
When we fully understand where our internal construct comes from and how it was formed we can start to examine whether it is supporting us or not. If it’s not then we can change it. After all, it’s yours to change!.
Let’s go back to John and Cedric for a minute. When John originally speaks to Cedric what is it that Cedric is doing that attracts John’s attention? Primarily it’s the fact that he’s not getting good enough results isn’t it! As you can see we are right at one extreme of the diagram. John will probably already have noticed that Cedric hasn’t been making enough cold calls. This would be at behavioural level wouldn’t it. Indeed, if John is particularly perceptive he may even think that he knows how Cedric is feeling. This wouldn’t be correct as we can never really know what someone else is thinking even if they tell us!
I’d like you to think of typical management coaching session such as the one above between John and Cedric. At what level did the management coaching take place? Mostly at the behavioural and results levels wasn’t it. How many calls Cedric needs to make linked to his historic ratios. Solid management and the way most management is done but what about the person underneath? How does Cedric feel about this conversation, his new targets or the prospect of cold calling? Even more vital, what beliefs does he have about cold calling or about this conversation? And, perhaps even more crucially, how does all of this reflect his personal identity? Let’s explore Cedric’s dilemna a bit further.
J: “Are we agreed that’s what you need to do then?"
C: “Yes. "
John left Cedric going back to his desk agreeing to a course of action to resolve matters. Cedric’s a good guy, committed and focused and he does know that this is good advice. He wants to follow it. Unfortunately, he’s not likely to because he’s not congruent with this course of action internally. Let’s take a peek and see…
Conscious awareness of desired results
Also aware of the behaviours necessary to achieve them
Not getting the results that he wants
Knows what to do and what is expected of him
Has the capability to do the task
Isn’t doing the task
Doesn’t like cold calling
Feels stressed and worried
Fears picking up the phone
Cold calling means rejection
Clients don’t want to speak with him
Not very good at cold calling
Too good to be in sales
Didn’t’ choose sales
He’s not like all those second hand car salespeople
Despite this, Cedric does pick the phone up and start to make some cold calls. He is quite quickly met with some resistance from a client who asks, “Are you trying to sell me something?" Cedric instantly feels bad, his speech speeds up, he starts to mumble, he makes excuses and he gets off the call as fast as possible. Alternatively, he might become more confrontational, challenging the potential client as to why he should listen to him. Either way – neither option is great!
In this example Cedric doesn’t have to stop to feel bad. He has become unconsciously competent at making himself feel bad in this kind of situation. The more times that Cedric runs this process, the stronger and more debilitating it will become. Cedric will reach a point where he will do anything but cold call. Consciously he may want to but he will have this massive physical reaction to the whole process. Because the whole process is unconscious most of the time we will be unaware of the steps. Let’s have a look at what they might have been in Cedric knowing what we know about him so far…
"Are you trying to sell me something?"
Because we personally interpret all events and give them meaning through our filters this question only has the meaning that you give to it. The client may genuinely be interested in us trying to sell something!
Cedric however immediately sees this as an objection. “Yes, yes I am. And I know that you won’t want it. No-one ever does. "
Note this mixture of mind-reading ("you won’t want it") and beliefs ("no-one ever wants it") which causes Cedric to… start to feel bad. As he starts to feel bad Cedric remembers all of the other times he has been rejected… and feels worse still. He then mixes this with his beliefs such as, “No-one ever wants to buy" and “This is like begging for a living".
Finally, he starts to question his beliefs about his own identity and worth, “And that’s what I do isn’t it. Ring people about things that they don’t want to hear about and then try and sell them to them. Why couldn’t I have done better at school?"
Cedric now feels terrible and subconsciously wants to end the call. He will probably just bail out and even if he does have a go at dealing with the client’s (perceived) objection he will probably do it very poorly and get another bad result to add to his collection of negative cold calling memories! Poor Cedric!
Now reinforced through identity, beliefs, feelings and examples how likely is it that Cedric will break this mould? Pretty unlikely in my experience. Whilst this is a very simple example it shows how we all code our memories.
"Why do our brains do this if it sabotages us in this way?"
To understand this I think you have to consider what the advantages of this process are. Each of us receive millions and millions of pieces of information every day. If we had to process every one of them consciously our heads would explode. Fortunately, we don’t as our brains delete, distort and generalise information based upon our previous experiences. This way we don’t have to recompute every piece of information every time we come across it. We know for example that a smile means that someone is happy with us. This may not actually be the case but it’s fairly useful information in most cases.
The problem when it comes to sales and telesales in particular is that a lot of the constructs that we are using may not be the most empowering ones. If you believe, for example, that the market is overcrowded at the moment then when a client tells you that he already has more suppliers than he needs you are not likely to challenge him as you already know that to be the case. What’s worse you will utilise that example to reinforce your construct.
The most effective way to change your construct is to start at the deepest level and work your way up. Working from the inside out often creates a cascade effect because once the identity is changed many of the beliefs and the feelings will change automatically. If your identity was that of a sales superstar would it be difficult to hold the belief that selling is a great career? I don’t think so. Try installing that same belief into a someone with the identity of a failing second rate salesperson who yearned to do something else - much, much harder to do.
Exercise: Find at least three other salespeople and ask them how they got into sales.
I love that exercise. When I run it at seminars and trainings delegates create a real energy and buzz talking about their sales careers. Whilst there are some exceptions I am going to predict that the vast majority of people did not choose to get into sales. They may well have said that they “fell into it"! When I ask, “So what did you discover?" someone always says that. Interesting, isn’t it. What did you want to be when you were young? Do you remember? Do you remember those parties with the jelly and the sausages on sticks? And then someone would say, “What do you want to be when you grow up?" What did we say? Astronauts, footballers, ballet dancers, firefighters, hairdressers? And do you remember that child in the corner? The one who put his hand up and said, “I want to be a cold caller?" “No?!".
Very few people actually set out to be a salesperson. What effect does this have on our identity of ourselves as a salesperson? I often read about other trainers saying that you should call your salespeople something other than salespeople to avoid exactly this issue. That’s fine and it may even work in the short term but surely it’s avoiding the main issue. We’re all of us pretty clever really and it won’t take long to transfer that negative identity to the new word subconsciously I can tell you! What are you going to do – change the title again? Far better to actually deal with the issues and choose a winning identity.
I was reminded of this the other day when I was shopping in Sheffield Meadow Hall. An old school friend came running up to me and said, “Gavin it’s great to see you!" Now, it’s been a little while since school and I am afraid to say that I didn’t actually recognise him however we started to talk. It wasn’t long before the subject of careers came up and so I asked him what he did for a living. His answers was somewhat strange. He said something like, “I work with directors of companies to help them to solve problems and improve their businesses. "
It sounded quite interesting, maybe consultancy, but I still wasn’t quite sure what he did so I asked him to tell me what he did in a bit more detail. “I work with senior business executives at a strategic level to help them to understand where their businesses are now and where they are going. Together we identify potential challenges and blocks and then make recommendations to help them to solve those challenges. " I was still not sure what he did so I asked what the name of his job was. He looked coyly around, covered his face with his hand and looking down said, “I’m a sales professional!".
Very interesting. What negative identity has he got associated with being a salesperson? Certainly can’t be helping him much.
Exercise: I want you to imagine that I have a time machine and I am going to lend it to you. You are going to climb into it and go back to some time in the past when you were deciding what you wanted to do with your life. Knowing what you know now why would you choose to be in sales? Think about it and write them all down. Why else? Why else? Keep going for at least 10 minutes. For the second part of the exercise I want you to look at your answers to part 1 and write down why those answers are important to you.
There are certainly many reasons why sales superstars choose to be in sales.
Money. You do not need qualifications and you don’t have to pass exams to get a job in sales and you can start straight form school yet your income and earnings potential is potentially unlimited.
Flexibility. Selling can create flexibility in employment, working hours and opportunity.
Promotion. Sales is one of the best ways to get up the corporate ladder. Every company loves people that add to the bottom line. The two key professions that do this are accountants (managing the costs) and sales (improving the turnover).
Buzz. Selling is exciting and fun. What other job creates the kind of buzz that you get when you win a new client or fulfill a new contract.
People. Selling is a great way to meet people. What other job pays you to meet new people and become their friends, their business partners and their confidants.
Travel. Selling provides unlimited opportunities for travel. I know international sales professionals who spend more time out of the country than they spend in it.
Toys. Sales people have some of the nicest cars, houses and toys than anyone I know. Let’s face it – nothing happens in business until someone sells something. Wouldn’t you reward your best salespeople well?
Results orientated. Selling ensures that everyone gets paid on their own merits. You don’t have to sit around waiting to make the next grade or support the laziest member of the department. Sales pays you for your results.
And I know that you will have thought of many, many more reasons.
Selling is a great, profession, aren’t you glad that you chose to be in it?!
Imagine for a second that Richard Branson were to lose all of his money, his friends and his contacts. As you are walking home from work you seem him homeless on the street with another homeless and moneyless person (I know it really isn’t likely!). You have to put your month’s salary on one of them being a millionaire within two months. Who would you put your money on? Unless you have money to throw away you’ll have put it on Richard Branson like every delegate I ever teach. Why? Because it’s who he is – it’s in his identity.
Build your sales superstar identity!
Welcome to the first steps on a journey. You won’t create a winning identity in one go and you also won’t keep it unless you work on it! The forces that created your identity over the years are still out there and you need to now focus consciously on deciding what your identity is and how and when you are going to work on it.
Exercise: Ask yourself who is the best salesperson that I know? If you said yourself, I really would like you to think of someone else now. Someone you admire and whose sales identity would be congruent with who you want to be. Write their name down at the top of a page and then take 5-10 minutes to describe who they are when they are selling. What’s important to them and why?
With those answers firmly in mind I want you to imagine for a second that you are them. What does it feel like? How does it help you? What do you learn?
Now, clear your mind and focus on your own identity. Who will you be when you are selling at your best? How will this support you in the achievement of your goals? How much easier does selling become? How much more do you enjoy selling?
Take a moment to enjoy this feeling and then note your thoughts and distinctions into your log. You may even want to write down a personal identity statement.
1) Identify new sales superstar models and take them for a mental test drive.
2) Revisit your own sales superstar identity regularly.
3) Add to it, improve it and make finer distinctions. The more often you visit your perfect self the more real the experience will become for you.
Have a great month and remember to go out and sell with passion.
For the last 10 years, Gavin Ingham has been helping sales people to explode their sales performance by turning self-doubt, fear and lack of motivation into self-belief, confidence and action. With his inspirational approach to sales performance and motivation Gavin combines commercial experience, personal excellence and communications technologies in delivering personal and business sales success.
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