A number of years ago when I was in corporate I had the opportunity of working with a top producing European VP. He had the magical lifestyle, the Porsche, The Ferrari, numerous houses in beautiful locations and a full amazing lifestyle and family. He had come from zero and worked his way up to a senior level in a well known global software company and decided that after 20 years or so at the top, that he wanted to take time out be with his family and relax. Like so many people the relaxation bit wasn’t as rewarding and hence how he arrived at our company. I was running Northern Europe and had tasted success (how do you define success?) and was excited at working for a potential mentor. All I had to do was to replicate some of his successful habits that would allow me to achieve and exceed in areas that were important to me.
Over a couple of months we met regularly but the timing wasn’t right for me to discover what the secret was. Fortunately we had a large opportunity to close in Scandinavia which meant we were going to be together for 48 hours including sharing flights, meetings and staying in the same hotel – I saw this as a great opportunity to get that little bit closer and to ask the so called magical question with a magical answer. My timing was perfect – after a successful sales negotiation we decided to dine and then returned to the hotel for a few drinks prior to going to bed. In the early hours of the morning in a hotel bar at a 5 star hotel in Stockholm I had my opportunity. Amidst the smoke from his expensive cigars I cornered him as the time was right – wow I was sooooo excited. In just a few short minutes I could learn from a master, someone who outwardly had it all, had the knowledge, the information and the plan. Off I went with butterflies in my stomach and I finallyasked my question – ‘ So, what do I need to do to be as successful as you? ‘ the question had been asked and shortly I would have the revelation, the answer, soon I could accelerate into the future with new found knowledge and a blueprint for future sales success. He looked around, sucked on his cigar and the grey blue smoke from his cigar filled the area along with the smell of smoke. He looked at me and with a wry smile was thinking – I was only a few seconds away – soon I would have the knowledge to power ahead and become even more successful . His cheeks were drawing in another breath of smoke and as he exhaled he started to talk. ‘Mike I’ll tell you what you need to do in order to get ahead’ – the next sentence would change my life ‘ Mike what you need to do is ……… sell more software’ . ! I stared and inside me I was thinking – hold on I am looking for a revelation not something as simple as that. For many moments I was stunned, I felt let down – sell more software – not exactly what I had been expecting.
So what did I learn, well it was indeed good advice. There is no miracle cure, there was no miracle pill. Sales is all about hard and smart work and getting a signed contract. Doing the fundamentals, doing it better and doing it with passion. What my boss had told me so succinctly was that I had to be good at what I thought I was good at – in fact I had to be better. Better than anyone else in my company, better than anyone else in my sector of sales. This was in fact brilliant advice because it’s about getting the business closed off and in many cases getting larger ticket values (sometimes you work just as hard for a £10k opportunity as you do for a £100k or a £1million opportunity) but at least when the values are higher you have more to gain (and some would say more to lose) – the trick is having enough of the right opportunities in your pipeline.
I have recently worked with a number of people some who are tasting huge success in a global recession. One company their average order value was less than £200k and they closed a £25 million pound contract and quickly followed it with another for £10m. They had focus and yes it did take time but they new exactly what their target audience was and they worked that account in a huge way. Opportunity is everywhere but there is no substitute for focus and the end result. Giving the prospect what they want will help you sell more. If you sell more and you are on a bonus scheme or commission the rest will be history. So in summary the answer I received form my boss was 100% accurate – today this advice is as a good as it was when I heard it for the first time – now you can benefit form it too!