I am in the process of reading a New York Times bestseller called 90 Minutes in Heaven. The first chapter, where Don Piper describes his 90 minutes in heaven, is by far the best part of the book. Page after page of the rest of the book (so far), details his horrible ordeal, the accident, his years of pain and recovery and his depression. This section of the book is not that enjoyable. But today, I came to a passage of about 3 pages that made the drudgery worthwhile.
Don Piper was recounting his days, weeks and months of self-pity, and his refusal to accept help from anyone. His mentor, an eighty year-old minister, was visiting him one day, and let him have it but good. I won't go through the trouble of including the word-for-word conversation here but he basically said, "get your act together." He went on to say, "you must allow others to help you." And he wouldn't leave until Don agreed. As Don recalled this encounter, he called it the turning point of his recovery - a miracle!
As I read this section of the book it occurred to me that while none of you are twisted, mangled, broken versions of your former selves, many of you are at the helm of companies with broken sales forces and, like Don, refuse to accept or ask for help. Your sales force may be no different than it was a year ago, except for the lack of revenue they are producing. Ask for help. Accept help. They may be the same group of people you had at this time last year, except that they are struggling today. Ask for help. Accept help. They may have the same accounts that they had last year, except that those accounts aren't buying as much. Ask for help. Accept help. They may be prospecting like they did last year except that the deals in their pipeline have been stalled or delayed and last year's level of prospecting isn't enough to make up for it. Ask for help. Accept help.
When revenues are flat or declining, that isn't the time to let pride or ego get in the way.
John Miller, author of QBQ! - The Question Behind the Question, gets it. Last week he wrote that cutting training would be as ludicrous as the fire department not being able to respond to an emergency because they cut training and their department wasn't prepared. He went on to say that for most companies, right now is an emergency!
I don't care how many years your people have been in sales. They weren't trained to sell in an economic environment like the one we have today. Retaining accounts is as important as ever, but right now, most companies need their salespeople to bring in new business. Unfortunately, most of your salespeople weren't trained to hunt and close either, only to manage accounts. So it's a complex situation:
- You need your salespeople to hunt and close but they weren't trained to do that;
- You need them to sell in the worst economy in their lifetimes but they weren't trained to overcome that either;
- You aren't comfortable asking for help because you think you should be able to solve this problem yourself (these times are challenging even for top experts like me);
- You don't want to spend any money because - oh yeah - sales are down;
- If just a couple of those deals on hold would close you'll be OK (hope is not a strategy).
(c) Copyright 2009 Dave Kurlan