Pardon my awkward paraphrasing of the famous “Yes Virginia, There Is A Santa Claus,” line from the movie, Miracle on 34th street. As Thanksgiving approaches in the US, we can count on seeing that movie over and over until Christmas.
In reality, the title of this post should be, No Sales Professional, There Is No ANSWER!
As sales professionals, we always seem to be on the quest to find “THE ANSWER.” What is the thing that will suddenly cause people to answer their phones and be interested in talking to me? What is the thing that will enable me to make sure 100% of my leads are sales qualified? What is the thing that will make sure my funnel is always balanced and healthy? What is the value proposition that is so differentiated the customer will immediately sign a purchase order? What is the magic formula for achieving my sales quota year after year? What is the single thing that will make me wildly successful in selling?
While there is No ANSWER, there are thousands of people, consultants, and books that claim there is. Sales 2.0 (whatever that is) is the answer! Marketing automation, content, nurturing is the answer! Email marketing is the answer! SEO is the answer! Web based advertising is the answer! Referral based selling is the answer! Customer-Focused, Value-Based, Solution, Consultative, Provocative. Challenger selling is the answer! Cold calling is the answer! Selling process is the answer! Social media/business/selling is the answer! Sales Intelligence is the answer! Hiring is the answer! Assessments are the answer! Training is the answer! Coaching is the answer! And, believe it or not, Tony Robbins does not have the secret to sales success.
There is no end to people with “The Answer,” yet in reality none of them is THE ANSWER, but many of them may be components of THE ANSWER.
Selling is tough and complex (as is buying). It’s human nature to seek to simplify complexity as much as possible–to the point of searching endlessly for THE ANSWER or Silver Bullet (if you like Lone Ranger analogies). But there are no simple or singular answers to complex/dynamic problems. There are sets of answers or solutions that help us understand, manage, and succeed in a complex world. There are underlying principles–that endure over time, that provide foundations to determining the answers. These are things like our value systems, our beliefs, our trustworthiness.
It’s even tougher than I’ve described so far. Everyone’s sets of answers are different! And they change over time! The sets of answers that we choose to be successful are very different than those our competitors or other organizations may choose. Copying what our competitors do is never a path to performance excellence. The answers that work today, will not be the answers that work tomorrow. We have to continually change, improve, and innovate.
I worry when I see a sales person or a sales executive thinking they have found THE ANSWER. I know they will be disappointed. Not because the initiative they’ve chosen is bad, but because it is probably insufficient for sustained success. I know that initiative will lose momentum and favor, and they will go on to the next ANSWER, then the next, then the next, ……
I worry when people don’t understand it when I say, “I don’t know THE ANSWER, but I can help you discover and implement the answers to what you are trying to achieve.” They don’t really understand the problems.
All of the things I outlined several paragraphs ago are part of THE ANSWER. We have to look at Sales 2.0, marketing automation, selling process, and all the other stuff. Elements of each become components of our overall sales strategy. No single one will dominate, there will always be a juggling and shifting of emphasis, based on our shifting priorities, market changes and so forth. We have to continually look at each element, each program, each part of what we do, optimizing the components and the whole.
I wish there was THE ANSWER. I wish I knew THE ANSWER, because if I did, I could get fabulously wealthy telling it to you. But there isn’t, there is just the path to first discovering the questions, then the answers, then more questions, then more answers…… But isn’t that journey, isn’t that process what makes business, selling, and leadership so much fun? Isn’t that what we as sales professionals are paid to do?