4 Great Sales Lessons from a Notre Dame Commencement Ceremony

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, May 17, 2016 @ 11:05 AM

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We were fortunate to be in the audience for the 2016 Notre Dame Commencement where Vice President Joe Biden, former Speaker of the House, John Boehner, and former Joint Chiefs of Staff and retired 4-Star General, Martin Dempsey were among the speakers.  While all were good, Biden had one great takeaway, and the General shared 3 tips and an action step. I believe that these are all share-worthy and apply to sales and sales leadership as well, and perhaps even better than they apply to those graduating from universities.

Dempsey is known for a 3-word call to action, "Make it Matter."

Let's apply "make it matter" to sales and sales management.  In sales, it means that every conversation, with every prospect and customer, should be meaningful to the customer and/or prospect.  How can we make each conversation matter to them? To them!  We need to stop thinking about our own needs and focus on the needs of the person on the other end of the call or the other side of the conference room table.  This doesn't mean giving up control, or facilitating, but it does emphasize the importance of listening instead of talking.

When it comes to coaching salespeople, this concept is even more important.  How do you get your salespeople to come back and want more coaching from you?  After all, that is the true measurement of whether or not your coaching is having an impact.  Are they getting enough from it to want more of it?  Make it matter - to them!

I found his advice to graduates even more meaningful.  He told them, "We need you to have a warrior’s heart, an immigrant’s spirit, and a servant’s soul."

Let's review.

Heart of a Warrior - It's the will to sell - grit - the ability to do what it takes - and wanting it badly enough.  It's finding a way - any way - to get the desired outcome.  It's more than surviving sales; it's achieving and thriving in sales. 

Spirit of an Immigrant - It's finding your way, seeking something better, and fitting in.  It's being flexible, taking risks, being memorable enough to differentiate yourself from all others.  It's learning your customer/client's culture and embracing it.  

Soul of a Servant - It's about giving people what they truly want and need and you identify that by asking great questions and listening and following up with more great questions.

Biden stressed engagement.  He urged graduates to engage with conversation and build lasting relationships.  My sales translation is that while our current generation of technology is great and should be leveraged, a connection on LinkedIn is not a relationship, a follower is not a raving fan, and a conversation cannot be conducted over email.

These are all common sense guidelines, but today, whether it's politics, technology, or how we view ISIS, there doesn't seem to be enough common sense as a main ingredient of our discussions.

As an example, as I write this, we are in the first morning of our spring Sales Leadership Intensive and the conversation taking place this very moment is about the importance of a formal, milestone-centric sales process.  Common sense suggests that a time-tested and proven sales process will be much more effective, consistent and predictable than going without.  Despite the common sense factor, I've read articles suggesting that we no longer need such things with the current technology available to us.  I've read countless articles about the death of selling, the death of SPIN selling, the death of Solution Selling, and the death of consultative selling approach. And of course we have all been told that cold calling is dead.  Uh-oh.  Most of these articles were written by companies trying to get you to buy their software applications and they hope that you will buy into the dead = need for software.  Nice try!

There is no doubt that selling has changed.  If you just read the article I linked to, you should recognize that the real key is in understanding how the dynamics have changed.  Selling has changed only to the degree that we must understand how to deal with those changing dynamics.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales process, solution selling, SPIN Selling, notre dame, joe biden, sales software, selling has changed, martin dempsey, john boehner

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About Dave

Best-Selling Author, Keynote Speaker and Sales Thought Leader.  Dave Kurlan's Understanding the Sales Force Blog has earned a medal for the Top Sales & Marketing Blog award for six consecutive years.  Dave's Blog earned a Bronze Medal in 2016 and this article earned a Bronze Medal for Top Sales Blog post in 2016. Read more about Dave.

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