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Winners don't just do things differently, they do different things

There is a famous quote by Shiv Khera that says "Winners don't do different things, they do things differently."

In the year 2000 my dad was diagnosed with severe thyroid cancer. As a result of his radiation treatment he lost the use of his salivary glands. He tried everything he could to get them to function again but nothing western medicine had to offer worked. Doctors finally told him that he would have to carry a bottle of water with him everywhere he went. His mouth was always dry and he was generally miserable. We asked the doctors if there was anything else we could try and the answer was "NO". Often in life as in sales when we are confronted with hearing "NO" and we give up. In life, no should mean keep trying and in sales no means that it is time to start the sales process because up to the point of hearing no you have been trying to take an order and not selling.

Refusing to accept no as an answer with my dad led us to a cure for his saliva condition. We researched the problem, found a Navy doctor on an aircraft career in the middle east who had success reactivating saliva glands with acupuncture. He sent PDF's of the procedure to the Norris Cancer Center where my dad received the treatment. 6 weeks later he was eating a sandwich with fully working saliva glands.

In sales as in life no means you must do things differently or do different things. In the case of my dad ,doctors kept telling us that there was no way to help him so we had to do something different. In sales, if you confront a challenge you must look for different ways of doing things or figure out how to do the same thing differently, but do not keep doing what you are doing! As Albert Einstein once said "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results."

In sales, to become a high performance sales professional you must not only do things differently but you must do different things. This starts with thinking outside the box, examining your knowledge base and self introspection. The reality is that High Performance Sales Professionals are willing to admit that they do not know something while average sales people pretend that they know everything. Statistics are clear that 80% of sales people do not engage in any form of self improvement. They don't read books, attend seminars, work with coaches or even engage in practicing their craft beyond the day to day activities required of them.

Why is this important? Engaging in some form of self help will IGNITE new ideas and motivate sales people to do things differently or do different things. When I was a B2C telemarketer at SPRINT Telecommunications I was handed a script and told to make 100 cold calls a day. This wasn't a request it was a mandate. All telemarketers at SPRINT were required to do it and it was a sink or swim proposition. Everything was tracked, from the number of calls I was making, to the length of each call and of course results. My results, like every other average sale person doing my job were dismal. Even getting 1 yes out of every 10 no's was a stretch. I was frustrated, discouraged and and beginning to wonder if I would ever get out of my telemarketing role and get the promotion I soo badly wanted. I looked at the successful telemarketers at SPRINT who were knocking it out of the park and wondered what they were doing differently than those of us who were getting unsuccessful results. The first question was were these sales winners in fact doing things differently than those not of us not succeeding? The answer was that they sure where. They were buying leads, they were calling in the evenings and on weekends when other reps were home. They were pounding the phones all day every day making more than 100 calls per day and seldom taking a break. This was all great but I wanted to figure out how do something different. I needed to figure out how to distinguish myself from my peers and hit my numbers fast so that I could make more money and at the same time get the promotion I so badly wanted. I knew where I wanted to go but I also knew I was not going to get there unless I did something unique.

One consistent activity for me was to engage in a lot of training. I put myself through the Xerox Professional sales course which at the time were considered the gold standard for selling and I attended one live sales training per month. One day on my ride home from work I listened to a sales training about telemarketing. In that training the speaker talked about finding a way to do something different than what other people around you were doing. To think outside the box. It sounded easy but I was stuck. I started brainstorming with my friends in other sales jobs and during one of those conversations the guy I was talking to took another call and then came back to me and said "geez another person doing a survey, do you know how many survey calls I get a week?" I asked him if he actually took the surveys and he said he did. That call changed everything for me. I shifted my strategy and created a telemarketing survey for the telecom home consumer long distance market. I put together a list of 500 prospects and I used this survey to lay the foundation for information gathering, gaining a deeper understanding of my prospects persona and calling needs. Nothing about this initial information gathering call was sales related. Instead of calling and trying to get a sale or an appointment or even say that I was from SPRINT. I used the survey to gather industry information and understand my prospects pain points. Now, when I made the next call, the sales call, I knew what the prospects pain points were and how I would approach the call to close the sale over the phone or schedule an appointment with my outside representative. This survey approach was very effective and it caused my one call close ratio to climb. I was also setting more appointments for my account representative than I ever had. The result was higher commission checks and within 90 days I was promoted to an outside account representative. Now on to my new problem.

As an account representative I was now responsible for closing any sales to B2C consumers that my telemarketer set for me as well as closing sales to small businesses. At that time any business that used more than $5,000 per year in long distance phone services was a prospect. Again I looked to those who were already successful and learned that many of them were buying D&B leads and carving out days to knock doors in business complexes. Many of the buildings they approached either had no soliciting signs on the front of the building or or on the doors of the offices inside. I began to notice that many of the sales representatives I worked with did not want to encounter businesses with no soliciting signs on the door. Some were afraid and others just did not want to bother with the headache involved. Either way it seemed to me that there was a lot of money being left on the table. While I had to overcome call reluctance that came with telemarketing, cold calling in person has never been a problem for me. I am the guy who will walk into an office and if there is no receptionist I will just keep on walking in until I find someone. The problem was that this was a time when no soliciting signs were really gaining prominence and if there was a sign up I was usually asked to leave the office. Nobody was ever nasty to me, they just wanted me to leave. I was fine with that and I would just go to the next office. Then one day I went into an office building with a no soliciting sign on the entrance door to the building. It did not take long before a building security officer escorted me off the property and warned me not to come back. This was a problem because I was not going to leave all that money on the table. I had to figure out how I could cold call on this goldmine of prospects. This time I did not want to do anything different because I knew it was a good path, but I had to figure out how to do what I was doing differently. How could I call on a building or a business with a no solicitors sign and not be thrown out and piss anyone off?

Once again I started to brainstorm and it hit me that if I went into a no soliciting building or office with zero intent to sell anything, I could get in, talk with a prospect without violating the no soliciting rule, gain the information I needed and never upset anyone while all the time building a tremendous amount of rapport.

How did I do this? I reached out to a friend of mine who owned a promotional item company. I looked for the cheapest items I could find which turned out to be magnets, key chains and pens. With the approval of SPRINT I printed sprint and my name and phone number on the items. I gathered sales material that I thought would be relevant. I know that this sounds basic but nobody was doing it. Now I was ready to cold call.

The next time I was confronted by a no soliciting warning my response was that I was not selling anything, I was just giving stuff away. The result was that either people would talk with me and I was able to gather information or I would leave my material and eventually I more often than not received a call with an inquiry about my services. This was a time before deregulation and cell phones and customers were looking for the best rates on long distance calling. Did this strategy work? Yes by cold calling differently I did not need to reinvent the wheel but I was able to meet with prospects who were largely being left on the table. The end result was that I was earning fat commission checks in the range of $10,000-$25,000 per month and within 6 months I was promoted to a Major Account Representative. When I was promoted I was 20 years old and the youngest MAR in the company history at the time.

This article started by talking about the fact that average sales people pretend to know everything while High Performance Sales Professionals are willing to admit that they don't know everything and are prepared to do things differently. So what do the top sales performers do that do many sales people ignore?

  1. Listen and ask the right questions! The vast majority of sales people are so wrapped up in their own world that when they sell that they rarely really listen. In an earlier post I discussed the difference between listening and hearing. Listening is a skill that requires your full attention and all of your senses. Listening will help you to build trust because your prospects will be able to tell you care. It will also allow you to ask questions that matter and discover your prospects pain points allowing you to become a problem solver.

  2. Manage time and energy efficiently! Schedule your day and week to utilize your time and energy as efficiently as possible. Remember to manage your energy you must understand your Ultradian Rhythm and how to maximize your activities during your high and low energy swings.

  3. Always play to win! While average sales professionals play to survive, High Performance Sales Professionals play to win. What do they do differently? They understand that they will face rejection and that rejection does not equal failure. More importantly they understand how to set goals for winning. High performance sales professionals know their daily, weekly, monthly and yearly numbers. They understand how their numbers integrate with their success and how to adjust their numbers if needed

  4. Engage in Empathy. Engaging in empathy is one of the most critical characteristics that High Performance Sales Professionals do differently. Engaging in empathy enables sales professionals to understand their buyer’s pain points and needs. High Performance Sales Professionals understand that the more they can relate to the prospect, the stronger their rapport will be and the deeper and more productive the relationship will become . High Performance Sales Professionals understand that the sale is about the prospect and not them.

  5. Story Tell. High Performance Sales Professionals are great story tellers. When I coach sales professionals I often compare their story telling to them being a movie projector and the prospect being the audience. What great sales people do differently is that they understand how to weave important facts of the sale into the story. You have to be quick on your feet understanding how to integrate by telling a compelling story, and enhance that story with relevant facts and statistics.

Ken Calof is a High Performance Sales Coach and Fractional Sales Manager specializing in working with B2B organizations with 3-25 sales professionals. For a 1:1 meeting email

or call

(562) 318-7420

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