Whiplash on the Sales Force

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, May 26, 2015 @ 06:05 AM

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I don't know too many people who saw the award-winning movie Whiplash.  This past winter, Tom Schaff, an OMG Partner in St. Louis, recommended it and thought that I would love it.  As luck would have it, we were living in an igloo this past February, when temperatures never rose above freezing (for 6 weeks), we had nearly 10 feet of snow on the ground, and our home was encased in ice.  That was a great time to be watching movies!  I did love Whiplash and there were so many great scenes that I could have written about. I never did get around to writing about it, but no problem.  Chris Collias, a friend, loyal reader, and longtime client going back to the 1980's, sent me an email with his suggestion for an article.  Here it is.  Chris said that the main character, the incredible drummer, Andrew, is a metaphor for a salesperson. Fletcher, the brutal and narcisistic music professor, could be viewed as an extremely difficult customer or prospect.   

In the movie, the more impossible that Fletcher made it for Andrew, the harder Andrew worked.  The louder Fletcher yelled, the quicker Andrew put his head down and tried harder.  The more manipulative Fletcher became, the more tireless Andrew was.  Andrew is the epitomy of commitment - doing whatever it takes to succeed.  It wasn't conditional commitment; it was unconditional commitment. No-matter-what.

Chris noted that many salespeople aren’t committed to their profession.  They don’t put in the 1,000 hours that it takes to achieve mastery so when they encounter a prospect similar to Fletcher (who actually threw a cymbal at Andrew's head), they don’t react by working harder or facing their weaknesses. Instead, they rationalize, make excuses, or move on to another company (or band). 

Chris said, "Andrew was able to overcome his nemesis by working hard, planting his feet, and calling his tormentor's bluff by delivering his best.  Some prospects, especially in purchasing, can be real bastards.  However, instead of becoming emotional, timid, defensive or sarcastic, you should view them as providing an opportunity for learning. Face them head on, remain calm, and consider that you might be the only salesperson who ever got this far with this particular difficult prospect."

Well stated, Chris!

In many cases, difficult prospects are actually easier to sell because there isn't a whole lot of competition.  Most salespeople give up or lose the prospect's respect before they get remotely close to doing any business with them.

It is important to be aware of potential weaknesses though.  For example, if you have need for approval - the need to be liked - it may be very difficult for you to navigate a situation like this without worrying about what the prospect will think or say or do.  Get over it.  

If you have difficulty recovering from rejection, you may be very uncomfortable putting yourself in a situation where a prospect like this could reject you.  You have nothing to lose!

If you lack self-confidence, it might be scary to jump in and deal with a prospect like this.  Push yourself and do it anyway.

As Chris says, difficult prospects will make you stronger and that will make it even easier for you to deal with prospects who are normal.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales, sales weaknesses, objective management group, difficult customers,

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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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