Reflection on Mistakes

Habits are scary things. They can help you, and they can kill you. Many books have been written about this phenomenon. In Sales, to help you move forward in your sales transformation, reflecting on habits is a great exercise. Let me try to help you with this. Unsurprisingly, it will involve learning from mistakes. Mistakes can only be understood backwards, and they need to be made to improve forwards. I break it down into three steps.

  • Know what you want to become. Have a clear vision of the Trusted Advisor profile. Years ago, when I was aiming for climbing the Alpe D’Huez (a challenging mountain stage in the Tour de France) six times in one day, I had an Alpe D’Huez fridge magnet stuck to my fridge so I was reminded of my goal every morning at breakfast. I had a clear picture of what I wanted to become: a fit person (with a professional bike) trained up and ready for the task. So, ask yourself: can you describe the Trusted Advisor’s habits you are aiming for? How should your Mindset be? What does your new way of selling Skillset look like? What is, in customer conversations, the new value you trade? How well have you progressed so far?
    • Review the hyperlinks for more details.
  1. Wrong Preparation. You have been preparing with the focus to sell something. You can call that being self-orientated. It is probably also the biggest reason prospects do not call you back for a second meeting. You lose before you really get started. Change this habit to preparing while being other-orientated. What situation is your prospect in? Are they market leader or aspiring to become one? What are they worried about? What information do you have to help them with that? Are they adapting to new trends in their market? How can you contribute to that conversation? Prepare as if you really in the customer’s shoes, see the world, their consumers, their challenges, their competitors through their glasses.
  2. Wrong Opening. You caught yourself talking too much about yourself, your company and your solution early on in the conversation. Change this habit. The more you talk about the questions you were trying to answer in your preparation, the more interested it is for your prospect. Show that you care; Show that you want to contribute to solving their business challenges. Put your business acumen before your sales acumen. This is the way you earn credibility right at the start of your meeting.
  3. Wrong Value. Although your solution will be valuable to your prospect, it is not the value they are waiting for early in their buying process. Hold your solution-horses for later and start adding value with your insights. If you do not share insights, you will fail the relevance test and you are seen as a consultative seller who only has questions and no insights. Nobody is waiting for more unanswered questions in the customer’s complex world of what to explore, what to change, and what to invest in. You have delivered the right value if your prospect feels they are better off than before the meeting.
  4. Wrong Stakeholder. The common mistake is to believe that the stakeholders you meet with will make the decision. They do not. They depend on reaching a consensus of the buying group. Find out who they are and bring them into the conversation. You need to know their opinion on the common company’s challenges. Their views, their ideas are important to know before you meet with people in the C-suite.
  5. Wrong Closing. You find yourself focusing too much on closing the deal. You are better off gaining small commitments from your customer contact that lead to a bigger deal. At the end of your meeting, ask for the commitment to involve others. Ask yourself, before closing the meeting: what will your contact do after you have left the building (or hang up the phone/skype/zoom)? To progress opportunities, you need Change Champions who will continue to drive change without you.
  • Weldon Long, the author of The Power of Consistency (a great book for salespeople to get a different perspective on changing habits), said: “You are far more likely to do something if you have told yourself you are going to do it.” Review the five mistakes and decide which ones apply to you. Then write down ONE ACTION per mistake on a Sticky-Note and place these in a visible spot for when you are preparing and calling your customers or prospects. Start applying these actions until they become habits.

Making mistakes is not the same thing as failing. A failure is the result of a wrong action, where a mistake is the wrong action. My advice: Instead of wondering why you fail to progress with closing those deals, focus on applying the right actions you wrote down that will help you in not making the same mistakes.

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