Golf fans: pretend you are down one stroke at the Masters and you are on the 18th hole. A fan is near the green eating a hamburger when all of a sudden, a gust of wind pulls his McDonald’s bag out onto the fairway. Amazingly, the ball takes a huge bounce and then rolls right into the bag. Under PGA rules you cannot cause the ball to move once it is in rest or you face a one stroke penalty. What should you do?
Solution: Light the bag on fire then hit the ball.
That is problem-solving!
As salespeople, we run into problems every day when we are out selling. We forget our presentation materials. We get stood up. We run into traffic on the way to an appointment. Meetings cancel. The financials sometimes do not work out. A surprise decision-maker gets involved. We put our foot in our mouth.
To be good in sales or sales management, you have to be good at thinking on your feet. You have to be a good problem-solver. In fact, that is why sales can be such a lucrative profession. If just anyone could do it, there would not be so much financial opportunity. The world will pay almost anything for a good problem-solver.
With just a little intentionality, you can solve almost any sales problem in five steps.
1. Identify the problem.
Some people don’t even do this. (Example: Wife that is mad at her husband, and he doesn’t even know why she is mad.)
2. Change your perspective – identify three positives.
Let’s say you drive all the way across the city during rush hour traffic in the morning to a breakfast meeting, and just as you walk in the door, you get a call on your cell and your prospective client says, “I’m sorry to have to do this to you, but I just don’t think this is a good fit, so I’m not going to be making our meeting today.”
What are three good things about that? Of course, you don’t want to get stood up; but when it happens, you have to learn to look on the bright side. You can say to yourself, Now I have more time to call and set up another appointment. Or you can say, I am thankful every day for a job that teaches me patience. Or Every ”’no” gets me closer to a “yes.” etc.
True Story: While selling books for Southwestern Family of Companies, one of my colleagues got 13 flat tires in one summer. After the first few, he turned it into a game to see how fast he could change a tire. By the end of the summer, he could change a tire in under three minutes.
3. Identify all your possible solutions.
You can sit around and feel sorry for yourself. You can take a break. You can emotionally eat and gorge on the most fattening of breakfast foods to help you cope. You can call a friend and complain about your job. You can project that it is just not possible to make money in your profession. I know all the previous “solutions” sound stupid; but believe me, people do them. I have seen many off-track sales people take a nap in their car or decide they need to go shopping during the day, when they get an unexpected break. Another solution would be to go straight back to the phone and try to replace that cancelled appointment with another.
4. Determine which option is best.
A good rule of thumb is to pick whatever solution gets you in front of another prospect the quickest. That helps you to get over it quicker and builds your self-esteem, because you know you can work through anything. It allows you to realize that problems are no big deal.
5. Do It!
Sometimes we know what we should be doing, but we still don’t do it. My dog is even guilty of that. He will stick his head in the trash can to pull out the scraps; and while he is doing it, he will wear a cheesy, toothy grin on his face because he knows he is doing wrong. Remember, whenever we don’t do something we know we should be doing, it takes our self-confidence down a notch. When we do something that we don’t want to do because it is the right thing to do, that increases our self-confidence. Action cures fear!
Bonus tip on having a problem-solving attitude: Always focus on the solution. Are we always solution-oriented? How many times do you hear someone complain about the market, about their company’s pricing, or how much they have to do? If you find yourself, doing any of those, that is not being solution-oriented, that is being problem-oriented.
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