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Team Building

You're Afraid to Sell Because You Think There is Hope

Posted by Dave Kurlan 

It may have been in episode 4 or 5, in season 1.  It was definitely in the HBO series Band of Brothers.  A soldier was telling an officer that after the drop into Normandy, he simply hid in a ditch.  The officer asked if he knew why and he replied, "Because I was scared!"  The officer said, "You were scared because you thought there was hope.  The sooner you can accept that you're already dead, the sooner you can function as a soldier."

Think about that statement - not just its war implications, but also its life, and of course, sales implications.

Some people worry constantly about troubled love ones until that trouble causes their death.  The worrying ends because in those cases, death eliminates the fear.

In sales, we certainly don't want salespeople to have a defeatist attitude - nothing could be worse than that.  But on an opportunity by opportunity basis, there is tremendous power in believing we have already lost, or that we cannot possibly win this deal or account.


In battle, if we believe we are already dead, then what's the worst that can happen?  If we are already living the worst that can happen - death - then we won't be afraid, we won't be tentative, and we will do not some, but all of the things we were trained to do.  We'll fight!

In sales, if we believe we have already lost, then what's the worst that can happen?  If we are already living the worst that can happen -  we lost - then we won't be afraid, we won't be tentative, and we will do not some, but all of the things we were trained to do.  We'll sell!

"We'll sell" means that we'll ask all of those good, tough, timely questions that salespeople don't always ask; qualify more thoroughly than ever before, and not give in to the pressure of an early demo, presentation or proposal until the milestones in our process tell us that it's appropriate. 

Most salespeople fail to achieve because of their fear, but if we can eliminate the fear, only a lack of selling skills would hold them back and those can be taught.  Sure, it can take 8 months to a year to train and coach salespeople to master consultative selling.  But that's a hell of a lot better that the 2-3 years it can take when all of their fears still prevent them from even trying what they are being taught.

Pop culture, especially a movie that tells a true story, can provide a better context for change than when we map out steps and teach.

You won't get this deal, so stop being afraid.  Do the things you've been afraid to do because you don't have anything to lose!

Lincoln on Leadership: Executive Strategies for Tough Times

Only ten days before Abraham Lincoln took the oath of office in 1861, the Confederate States of America seceded from the Union taking all Federal agencies, forts, and arsenals within their territory. To make matters worse, Lincoln, who was elected by a minority of the popular vote, was viewed by his own advisors as nothing more than a gawky, second-rate country lawyer with no leadership experience.

Lincoln On Leadership is the first book to examine Abraham Lincoln's diverse leadership abilities and how they can be applied to today's complex world. In honor of our 16th President's birthday, we are taking a look at Lincoln's 15 leadership attributes discussed in this highly acclaimed book.

Chapter 1: Get Out of the office and Circulate Among the Troops

"His cardinal mistake is that he isolates himself, and allows nobody to see him; and by which he does not know what is going on in the very matter he is dealing with."

Lincoln's reason for relieving Gen. John C. Fremont from his command in Missouri (September 9, 1861)

Chapter 2: Build Strong Alliances

"A house divided against itself cannot stand…our cause must be entrusted to, and conducted by its own undoubted friends - whose hands are free, whose hearts are in the work - who do care for the result."

Lincoln's remarks from "A House divided" speech, in which he accepted the nomination for US senator at the Republican State convention in Springfield, Illinois (June 16, 1858)

Chapter 3: Persuade Rather Than Coerce

"With public sentiment, nothing can fail; without it, nothing can succeed. Consequently he who molds public sentiment goes deeper than he who enacts statutes or pronounces decisions."

Lincoln's remarks in the first Lincoln-Douglas debate when examining the influence Stephen A. Douglas was having on the public (August 21, 1858)

Chapter 4: Honesty and Integrity Are the Best Policies

"I am compelled to take a more impartial and unprejudiced view of things. Without claiming to be your superior, which I do not, my position enables me to understand my duty in all these matters better than you possible can, and I hope you do not yet doubt my integrity."

Lincoln's closing comments in a letter of support for General-in-Chief Henry Halleck to a close friend who urged his dismissal (May 26, 1863)

Chapter 5: Never Act Out of Vengeance or Spite

"I shall do nothing in malice. What I deal with is too vast for malicious dealing."

Lincoln's comments in a letter about the readmission of Louisiana to the Union (July 28, 1862)

Chapter 6: Have the Courage to Handle Unjust Criticism

"Neither let us be slandered from our duty by false accusations against us, nor frightened from it by menaces of destruction to the government, nor of dungeons to ourselves. Let us have faith that right makes might, and in that faith let us to the end dare to do our duty as we understand it."

The closing statement of Lincoln's Cooper Institute Address, in which he encouraged party members to hold fast to their beliefs (February 27, 1860)

Chapter 7: Be a Master of Paradox

"Take time and think well upon this subject.….Nothing valuable can be lost by taking time…. Delay is ruining us…. Time is everything…. Please act in view of this…. Make haste slowly."

Lincoln giving seemingly contradictory advice to different followers in different situations (March 1861 - July 1862)

Chapter 8: Exercise a Strong Hand - Be Decisive

"Some single mind must be master, else there will be no agreement in anything…"

Part of Lincoln's firm stance regarding new elections in the State of Arkansas (February 17, 1864)

Chapter 9: Lead by Being Led

"Now, the undertaking being a success, the honor is all yours; for I believe non of us went farther than to acquiesce… But what next? I suppose it will be safer if I leave Gen. Grant and yourself to decide."

Part of Lincoln's response to General Sherman for his "Christmas gift" - the capture of Savannah (December 26, 1864)

Chapter 10: Set Goals and Be Results-Oriented

"I think Lee's army, and not Richmond, is your true objective point…Fight him when opportunity offers. If he stays where he is, fret him, and fret him."

Lincoln's response to General Joe Hooker, who'd asked for permission to advance on the Confederate capitol rather than engage the enemy in combat (June 10, 1863)

Chapter 11: Keep Searching Until You Find Your "Grant"

"I can't spare this man. He fights."

Lincoln's response to critics who urged the dismissal of General Grant after the battle of Shiloh, where Grant had been rumored to be drunk (April 1862)

Chapter 12: Encourage Innovation

"Still the question recurs 'can we do better?' The dogmas of the quiet past, are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew, and act anew."

Lincoln, in his Annual message to congress, exhorting its members to join him in a united venture to be conducted by the executive and legislative branches of government (December 1, 1862)

Chapter 13: Master the Art of Public Speaking

"Extemporaneous speaking should be practiced and cultivated. It is the lawyer's avenue to the public. However able and faithful he may be in other respects, people are slow to bring him business if he cannot make a speech."

From Lincoln's notes for a law lecture intended to advise younger lawyers how best to succeed (July 1, 1850)

Chapter 14: Influence People Through Conversation and Storytelling

"They say I tell a great many stories. I reckon I do; but I have learned from long experience that plain people, take them as they run, are more easily influenced through the medium of a broad and humorous illustration than in any other way…"

Lincoln explaining to a friend why he often related stories in the course of normal conversation.

Chapter 15: Preach a Vision and Continually Reaffirm It

"All honor to Jefferson - who, in the concrete pressure of a struggle for national independence, had the coolness, forecast, and capacity to introduce…an abstract truth, applicable to all men and all times."

Part of a Lincoln's praise for Thomas Jefferson, one of his early heroes, to a Boston group that requested he speak there on Jefferson's birthday. (April 6, 1859)



How do you respond to setbacks and adversity?

One of my colleagues, Pete Evans from England wrote this great article. This posting was inspired by watching his home town rugby league team, Wigan Warriors overcome a serious setback during the match last night. After 57 minutes of the match (which lasts for 80 minutes), they were losing by 28 points to 14 to Warrington Wolves. In the 57th minute, Ben Flower, one of the Wigan players was sent off for foul play. This left the Wigan team with only 12 players for the remainder of the match against a Warrington team that at that stage were on top and seemed destined to win.

In the next 23 minutes, Wigan scored 21 points and went onto win the match by 35 points to 28 and celebrate a historic victory against the odds. So what lessons can we learn from this Wigan victory which will help us achieve greater levels of personal and business success.

1.    Determination - to be successful, you have to be determined. You have to be prepared to do the things that others won't do. There are times when everything seems to be against you. It could be that you perceive that your competitors are better, that your products and services aren't as good. You may just think that achieving success is too much like hard work. When you are facing adversity and setbacks, you have to be able to dig deep inside you and be determined to succeed, even when the odds seemed stacked against you. It is about taking small steps towards success. This is what Wigan did last night, they dug deep and set out to score one try which would cast doubt into the minds of the opposition. Doubt creates opportunity. When you want to be determined, you must have no doubt in your ability to succeed.

2. Belief - this is linked to determination. You have to believe that you can do something even when circumstances seem against you. I have dealt with many sales managers and sales people who are behind their sales targets. It is as if they are defeated before they get out of bed in the morning and they lack the self-belief to do anything about their current situation. You have to have belief, otherwise you are setting yourself up for failure. Belief can be impacted by your mindset. You can create belief in your ability to achieve your personal and business goals by achieving smaller successes along the journey to ultimate success. This is what happened during last night's match. When Ben Flower was sent off, the remaining Wigan players still had belief in their ability. There were small but significant things which began to happen during the remaining 23 minutes of the match which contributed to the famous comeback. This started with a strong run by the centre of the pitch by forward, Frank-Paul Nuuausala. So what small but significant step can you take today to make progress to improving your belief and your own success.

3. Resilience - you become resilient through having experienced setbacks before and having taken the opportunity to learn from those setbacks. Most of the Wigan players last night will have faced situations where they seem to be in a losing position but have had the personal and team resilience to dig deep. The important point is that when they didn't win a match, they take a step back and analyse in depth why the match didn't go according to plan and what they can learn from it. So if you are in sales for example, and you don't win that large account you were expecting to win, do you actually take the time to learn from what happened or do you quickly move on. When a meeting with a prospect doesn't going according to plan and you start to lose control, do you just give up. Great sales people have great personal outlook and are very resilient. They use previous experiences to help them become resilient.

I was once asked can you learn resilience. My response was that you can only learn how to become more resilient by facing and overcoming setbacks. Life and business is full of knocks.

So embrace the setbacks and see them as part of your opportunity to learn and grow. If you listen to great sports coaches after a match that their team has lost, they will often talk about how the team will take away the lessons they have learned from the experience.

4. Desire - this is one of the key factors that you find in successful people, whether they are sales people, sales managers, leaders or successful sports people and sports teams. Without the right level of desire, you are not going to succeed. You have to create your own personal culture of desire. Desire comes from your own inner motivation. Achieving a personal or business goal has to mean something to you at a deeper level. If achieving a goal doesn't mean something to you, then you are less likely to be motivated to achieve it. Desire is fueled by your passion to do something. There are so many people who appear to be going through the motions and this comes across in how they show up at work and in meetings. Those people who have created their own personal culture of desire, have a reference point. This reference point helps them to keep their desire level centered and keep them focused when facing setbacks. Leaders in business and support are responsible for creating a culture where personal desire can flourish and impacts on the ultimate success of the team.

So coming back to last night's match, the Wigan players demonstrated their own personal levels of desire which enabled them to go on and win the match. This desire created commitment, passion and a willingness to do the things necessary to win the match.

So the next time you face a setback or you need to get back on track to hit your personal or business targets, take personal responsibility for your actions. Show determination, belief, resilience, and desire. Then see what different outcomes you will achieve.

Finally remember that when you do overcome setbacks and adversity use it as a reference point and learn from why you faced the adversity in the first place.

If you want to get your sales team up to speed, we can help.



The King is Dead: What does the passing of Arnold Palmer, “The King”, have to do with Sales Excellence today?

First off, I’m an avid golfer.  I watch the golf tournaments weekly and I play weekly.  I may suck at golf (18 handicap) but I love the challenge, the competition, the elegance and finesse of the game, the wonderful 5 hour “walk in the park”—and the thrill of hitting at least one or two great shots a round and maybe… of winning a tournament. I got hooked on golf as a kid, even though I didn’t start playing until I was 50 but I remember watching TV with my Dad and the weekly competition between Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus.  If it wasn’t for his excellence and that TV was finally in every home in America, golf would not be such a fanatical passion for so many of us today.  But did you know that if It wasn’t for Arnold Palmer there would be no Golf Channel? His commitment to make Golf a major sporting event on TV is now a part of his legacy. Did you know that?

But what does this all have to do with sales success?

I was watching the dedication to Mr. Palmer on the Golf Channel tonight and I thought about how the lessons I’ve learned from Arnie relate to sales success.

As one of the pros being interviewed said, “he didn’t play a course, he invaded it.” How many of your sales people are as driven to succeed at that level?

Another one said “he made you feel like you are the center of the world”.  And in an
interview with a number of women at the NAED Women in Industry Conference a few
months back, I was talking to Desiree Grace, VP of Sales and Marketing at Anamet Electrical, and I asked her “What do you look for when hiring a great sales person?”  Here is part of her response:

“You have to generally like people. And I would make the argument you have to like all people.”

Then she continued…

“I’ll give you a really funny example. Years ago when I was a sales rep, I called on a chemical
plant. And you always had to go through the guard shack. And if the person I was looking for was in another office, the guard would page them, you know, maybe someone named Dan or Dino. And so, it was Christmas, and I’d brought him a box of candy.

And he told me something I hadn’t even thought of or considered. He said, “You’re the only sales rep that’s ever brought me anything for Christmas”. And this was a good customer, so I was there like every other week. And I said, “Well, you’re always really helpful. You page the guys for me, etcetera, etcetera.” And he said, “Yeah, but I don’t do that for everybody.” He goes, “Haven’t you ever noticed?” And I said, “No, I really hadn’t.” He said, “The guy from the XYZ company, “he’s an arrogant jerk. I just leave messages on the voicemail of the person he wants to talk to. I don’t go the extra mile and page out in the factory for him.”

Arnie exemplified this idea.  As a result, “Arnie’s Army” was created. He probably had more fans than any other golfer in history.  How do your sales people stack up?  Are they loved by their customers? Do they create relationship right from the get go? And do they maintain them?

The first order of a great sales process is to be able to create relationship with the prospect. That creates trust and respect and drops the defenses of the prospect.  No one in the game of golf was better at creating relationship than Mr. Palmer.

And how about his commitment level? I was always amazed at the level of commitment with which Palmer played. He had a quirky golf swing but that didn’t stop him.  As one of his peers said in an interview today “We loved that he always ‘went for it’ when he probably should have laid up”.  So I asked the women at the conference “So as sales leaders, what do you think are the three most important things you look for in a sales candidate?”

One of the responses was “I think the biggest piece of it is self-motivation because if someone is not motivated to learn, they’re not motivated to ask questions, if they’re not motivated to make those phone calls, you know, you can’t teach self-motivation. They have to be committed to doing whatever it takes to be successful, those together; and then being willing to learn is
incredibly important. One of our HR people had a great saying: “skill and will” If there’s a skill
gap, you can move someone from low skill to moderate skill. But if they don’t have the will, no
So, do you have a means of measuring how committed to success your sales people are? Do you know if they have the desire and drive to be a success?

Arnie had a natural ability to differentiate himself.  Even though Jack Nicklaus won more
tournaments in the end, and I love Jack, don’t get me wrong, it was Arnie that really stood out.
When he advertised Penzoil years ago on TV, I just wanted to rush out and buy it—not because
It was a better engine oil but because I trusted Arnie. And I didn’t even need engine oil!
Most recently he was a spokesperson for a pharmaceutical company for people with a certain
heart condition—I think it was Xarelto.  I don’t have a heart condition, but if I did, I’d definitely
look into that product because of the way he gently and kindly differentiated himself—and that
in turn differentiated the product. He created trust.  In our sales training we have a term for that:  he had what we call “Sales Posturing”. On the course, sales posturing was his swing, his stance and his stride.  Off the course, it was his warmth, his smile and genuine love for what he was doing and his open heart.

Are your sales people able to differentiate themselves?  Or your company? Or your product? Do they create trust in the mind of the buyer?

Being humble was another of Arnie’s attributes.  This must be a part of the makeup of a
successful sales person.  Humility is about taking responsibility. They must take responsibility for not only their success but their failures.  Another Sales Manager I spoke with noted, “I think being humble is probably someone’s best attribute. I think that we all are human. We all make
mistakes. But we have to be willing to say, “you know, I learned. I learned that lesson. It might
not have been the best way that I approached it,” but to be humble enough to say, “I’m willing
to accept my errors, I’m willing to learn from my mistakes, and I’m willing to be a better person
because of it.”

Commitment, Desire and Drive to Succeed, Taking Responsibility, Creating Relationships, Building Trust, and Differentiating Yourself— are just a few of the important lessons we can learn from the life of the great Arnold Palmer. In the highly competitive world of sales today, these are also some of the essential keys to being successful in sales.  There are many others and if you’d like to learn more to create sales “legends” in your company, just reach out to us.  Or Register for Free Trial of Salesperson Candidate Assessments.