Getting into the 2018 fast lane
I vividly remember one of the most painful - and beneficial - learning moments in my career. I was on the 405 freeway in LA racing south to see the agency for Mitsubishi Motors somewhere in Orange County. Maintaining a healthy 70mph clip, I commented to my passenger, Esquire magazine’s Ad Director Cheryl MacLachlan, that we were making great time, which of course in LA was rare and a victory itself when you’re with the wind. (Northbound 405, however, was a parking lot.) My heart was going 3x faster than our car because Cheryl was grilling me hard. It’s not easy driving 70 and checking all mirrors when your A.D. is interrogating you about the Mitsubishi Motors account, the players, their strategy…and then every other account under my management in the territory, plus the existence of God. Etc. Etc. Cheryl left no stone unturned.
My anxiety was so high I missed our exit …BY FIVE MILES…and now had to double-back onto the parking lot that was 405 northbound. (Ooops, heh heh! DOH!) And then, more grilling than all of Sydney on Australia Day. No doubt the client loved getting my call from the actual “car” “phone” that we were running 45 minutes late. How would it have looked to reach across Cheryl’s lap to get my Pepto-Bismol out of the glove box? Yep, I even had to divert the mission so we could hit a gas station. Disastrous.
Planes most always go through turbulence before reaching the steady, smooth air that brings a nice ride.
Still, I think back fondly to that day. It’s the day I got serious. A plane most always goes through turbulence before getting to the smooth air. I hit a lot of turbulence that day which is why it sticks with me.
For months thereafter, my sole mission was to prove to the very bright Cheryl MacLachlan that I was not the biggest idiot in the world. (Yep, that was gonna take work.) Pride kicked in as I worked my butt off to prove I was not only capable of handling the weight, but I had a little bit of “stable genius” in me.
From that day, I learned two valuable lessons and I remind myself of them every year at this time. Because it's January and we have to get back to work...back to the salt mines...back to digging in the dirt!
1. Do the home-work. Nobody at UCLA taught me how to do homework, so I had to learn fast. My motivation was pure: if I were going to succeed in B2B sales, I would have to study and put in the time. A lot of time. I’d have to do the work so the next time Cheryl got into the car, she’d be handed a mini “dossier” on everything the account on our next call is doing and thinking. Bios on the players would be there… what they like for dessert and at the bar too. More importantly, our game plan for the meeting would be outlined and prepared including a list of strategic questions we’d need to ask and get answered from the prospect. And, I’d specify how we’d position our value proposition given the level and type of prospect with whom we’d be meeting.
As my idol John Wooden frequently repeated from Ben Franklin: “failing to prepare is preparing to fail”. It took the sharp and penetrating Cheryl MacLachlan to help me learn this lesson. She wasn’t the only manager who hit me in the face, she was the first one who helped me learn how not to get hit in the first place. While doing all this ferocious studying in my seat at the Coliseum with hungry lions looking on, a funny thing happened….I got smarter. I got better at running sales meetings. I got better proactively uncovering obstacles in selling situations, and then handling those obstacles. I got better at closing and negotiating business. I did the work and got rewarded. (If you want to hear what Cheryl said to me a year after our dreaded 405 commute, gimme a call…it’s a story of redemption that Spielberg should be paying me big money for!)
2. Practice. Back in 1932 when Cheryl helped smarten me up, I ultimately learned I’d have to practice my craft if I wanted to excel. Back to the future: just yesterday I had a big, big pitch with a very important prospect. (Yes, they’re all important…good catch.) To prep for the pitch, I grabbed the “ISC” (Incomparable Scott Crystal) last Friday and practiced my pitch with him. And then I practiced to my dog. And then I practiced myself. Even though my command of my material is super high, I knew the practice would help me hit all the high notes when it mattered most. And I did…my pitch yesterday went very well. I hit all the high notes and performed to the best of my abilities!
In the days when “car phones” actually were affixed to the car and I was trying to impress Cheryl, I’d practice my presentation alone in my apartment on nights before big meetings. I got so addicted to this routine I’d practice for meetings even when I was going solo without a manager in tow. It was liberating because eventually, I learned to own my material...and the meeting, and the prospect. Without realizing what I was doing, I was teaching myself how to own my success.
Concluding, I apologize for the "I" perspective in this post...this is supposed to be about you. I'm sure you've had a Cheryl in your career (maybe it was ME?), or a 405 south AND north moment or two, but as we ring in the new year, remember that you can own your success if you put in the time and practice.
You know the old, simple joke about “how do you get to Carnegie Hall?”…well I can honestly say I know how to get to Carnegie Hall from the Coliseum. (Eww, sorry…couldn’t resist.)
Happy New Year! Now go sell something...!
Selling.2.YES is the monthly newsletter published by Core 6 Management Advisors to enlighten, motivate and stimulate all of us sellers and sales managers on topics that need our attention.
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