Bright sunshine, endless stretches of sand, the odd camel farm, fenced in patches of lush green fauna and architecturally beautiful moques. The 140 odd kilometer, two hour drive from Dubai to Abu Dhabi can be either uneventful and routine or fascinating and delightful.
Looking around, I noticed that most drivers’ eyes are fixated by the road signs and cars ahead, hardly ever wandering away to the much that lies just beside. Like an old dog on a leash, led by a rigid master, drivers move clinically from one stretch of highway to the next with this ever so confident poise that each will predictably arrive at their chosen destination.
My colleague Venkat and I embarked on one such journey together recently, and it occurred to me that the concepts connected to sales have such an amazing co relation to this or any other voyage.
The ancient adage says, ‘A journey of a thousand miles starts with the first step’.
Over the last 3 weeks, we have been out in the market moving resolutely from one prospect to the next. In this endeavor to grow our business and after more than 15 meetings, it’s interesting now to look back at the plethora of experiences and outcomes that have ensued from the last 21 days.
An almost immediate observation is that logic and rationality hold such little credence when compared to emotion and sentiment. What overwhelms me at the moment is the memory of scores of previous ‘15 meeting projects’ that I have undertaken. That eerie de javu whose presence it seems I had taken almost for granted. I marvel at this extraordinary phenomena, one that I can think of no better word to describe than – predictability.
Three cheers to the one who conceived roads and highways, the kind that we have in most modern cities today. With such miraculous simplicity, one is able to transfer from point A to B. We thus diligently observe the two immutable laws of highway travel – (i) Keep moving forward and (ii) Stay on the highway.
It is the application of these two profound, yet unwritten edicts that predictably gets you to where you want to go. A pretty strong contender for a third law would be ‘speed’ as this determines how quickly one arrives at their intended objective.
Our previous follies had taught Venkat and I not to ponder too long about the prospect whom we had just met, but instead to expedite steps towards meeting the NEXT candidate. It would pay us little to question or analyze why the road curved in particular places and why there were certain detours. It’s not as if we wanted each diversion to be explained by the road authorities. In the quest for our destination, we merely trusted that this was not the place to stop but instead to assert boldly forward.
In sales, ‘mind space’ is precious and a novice often engages in dwelling on the trivial. This over analytical approach causes one to stop, get out of the car and study the contours of the drive way, inevitably delaying ones arrival at the pre determined stop. Imagine doing something like this after every client meeting. An extensive study of each prospect visit is nothing short of debilitating. Yet, we so often find ourselves engaged this folly.
Interestingly, Venkat and I derived greater joy in our comments about the quality of the road and inaccurateness of the detours – AFTER we had reached our destination. There was a kind of peace in studying or examining the route and its drawbacks once the journey was complete. It was like having reached the peak of an incredible mountain and looking down upon the hardships that we had endured in order to get to the summit. An analysis of the clients that rejected us, is therefore balanced and fruitful when conducted from a position of victory. Efforts to exert in this area prior to arrival are both unproductive and harmful. Not to mention the delays caused by the squandering of time.
From the 15 that we met, no doubt, business will accrue from 2 or 3. We could see that there was a strong desire and intent to transact with us. That leaves 12 odd prospects who will most probably not engage – at least for now.
The red light on the dashboard goaded us to pull in to the next available service station. I’m not sure about you, but I get unnerved with the thought of running out of gas on a freeway. Having experienced it a couple of times, this is one event that I do not wish to endure again. We both affirmed that our destination was now only 45 minutes away and under the sanctuary of a full tank, we looked and moved onward in the direction of Abu Dhabi. I felt almost relieved that we now had juice enough to see us through to completion. As the dreaded thought of being stranded on the road passed, a quiet calm now eased into our beings and I literally eased my seat backward to get some shut eye.
In the arena of sales, the follow up is a highly deliberated topic. Having coached teams of sales professionals, one observes that this subject inevitably arouses a desperate fervor – a protest of sorts which revolves around the ever lurking question i.e. why do ‘so many’ say no? In a beautiful article that I read today, the author spoke about the virtues of an Eagle. Its excellent eye sight and focus is second to none. The eagle happens to be the only bird on this planet that can fly over 10,000 feet. It even has the longest life among birds – 70 years. A regal creature respected by birds and animals alike and even used by humans as a symbol of success, victory and strength. One fact intrigued me though. This was about the Eagles hunting abilities. Apparently, the Eagle misses its prey 13 out of 14 times! I read this again and again and pondered how so much respect can be given to a creature with this sort of blatant imperfection. 13 out of 14 attempts, that’s a failure rate of 92.8% or a success rate of only 7.2%. Such small triumph earns so much credit only because the Eagle keeps swooping until it gets its meal. And so it is the act of ‘pursuing until’ that’s holds far more weight that merely ‘pursuing’. Another beautiful fact is that – in the new day, the Eagle happily chases 14 new targets without a single thought of the 13 that were missed on the previous day. Thus, its past failures do not in the least deter it from enthusiastically chasing its goals.
After over one decade in sales, I am able to identify only ONE reason why I haven’t gotten results from the follow up….. I just haven’t met enough people. I have failed at the follow up, because I thought (and almost believed) that every person I met will give me business. My follow ups got better when I started to appreciate that one out of three or sometimes one out of five meetings will close into actual revenue earned.
An instance that Venkat and me will not forget was when we accidently took an exit that brought us completely around and headed us back towards Dubai. So, it was with great frustration that we saw ourselves headed in the wrong direction until another exit that once again pointed us towards the intended destination. Then too, it was upsetting to know that we were driving on the same road that we had just been on 20 minutes ago. ‘Funny’, I remember thinking to myself. When we drove through that patch the last time, our emotions were high and we were in a general state of jubilation. However, repeating that very same territory invoked an exact opposite emotion! Interestingly, each attempt was just 20 minutes apart. Thus, it forces a conclusion, that revisiting an endeavor that has been already undertaken in the very recent past is neither satisfying nor gratifying. We would only derive joy from that same patch of road when we returned to Dubai or during our next trip to Abu Dhabi.
In sales, looping yourself around the very same prospects is frustrating for you and irritating for them. Here’s another cliché ‘Give them some space’. While we can appreciate this in the realm of personal relationships, applying it in sales is nothing short of liberating. To now evolve this liberation into nirvana – one must open up a whole new batch of fresh prospects. It’s almost fascinating how time and again (for almost 11 years now), I’ve observed that relationships with old candidates actually grow when you reconnect with them after a good space of time. When they realize that you have moved on without them and scored with other prospects – there is a kind of peace that surrounds the relationship. This harmony is also felt by you and echoed through your tone of voice and general attitude. Predictably then, the prospect respects you more and yearns to commence a working relationship with you. As I write this, my racing mind is able to recollect at least 8 or 10 cases in the very recent past, of people with whom I have built stronger bonds because I ‘moved on’ and dared to go after newer terrain. Psychologically, this kind of approach brings about greater accord in the rapport between you and the prospect.
Venkat and me arrived in Abu Dhabi had a few of good meetings, and headed right into a service station – this time to fuel ourselves, a well deserved hot meal at the end of the day! We excitedly spoke about our plans for the next day and the week ahead while continuing to be wary of not spending more than just a few minutes to study the past. The close of the day was thus dominated by the emotions of hope, zeal and expectation and not its opposites.
I conclude with what is undeniably my favorite word in sales. One word which to me, is a philosophy, a belief and a conviction. This one word, I can call a most trustworthy guide that is the ever shining beacon of light in the brightest or darkest of times.
And that one word is, ‘NEXT!’
Ask yourself today and then every day – Who is the next one? Do this for the next 90 days and then alarm yourself with the fabulous fruits of success.
Norman Leonard said, ‘The bend in the road, is not the end in the road, unless you fail to make the turn’. So, let’s take those turns and fulfill all our dreams.
(Arjun Aiyar is a corporate trainer, executive coach and motivational speaker based in Dubai. He has two training companies – one in India and the other in the UAE. His organizations cater to corporates and individuals by providing training and coaching in soft skills and behavioural areas. Learn more about Arjun’s business on www.stepupuae.com or www.thinqdynamiq.com)