Very early in my sales career, I was introduced to 2 incredible mentors – these were mentors who I never had the opportunity to meet in person, however their wisdom, advice and perspective allowed me to better understand the fundamentals of sales and how to create and maintain a sustainably successful sales career. These 2 mentors were Dr Denis Waitley and Jim Rohn. Both of these men created incredibly successful sales careers and built their success on 1 incredibly powerful philosophy – the importance of continuously planting seeds of greatness.
This philosophy, once I embraced it and fully understood its power, allowed me to not only create a successful sales career for myself, it allowed me to create a successful sales leadership career and now I have the privilege of working with ambitious sales leaders and their teams on creating and implementing game plans to create sustainable and replicable sales results for themselves and their businesses. And those sales leaders and sales people who either do not embrace this philosophy or fight against it, will be doomed to longer term mediocrity – they may occasionally experience short term success, however, over time, they will be left behind.
One of the key ingredients to this philosophy is to understand that everything works according to the Law of Gestation. We know for example, that the gestation period for a human being is 9 months, for an elephant is between 18 & 22 months. If you are planting carrots, it can take up to 3 weeks for the carrots to germinate, ready for harvesting. Why is this important? Because everything in life that grows, grows according to a gestation period, and this cannot be manipulated and sped up. And this applies especially to sales. I have lost count of the number of senior executives who placed ridiculously unrealistic expectations on sales leaders and their teams to deliver almost immediate sales success, and then when it wasn’t delivered, they would conduct forensic investigations on why the sales team ‘failed’ to deliver. The fact was, the seeds were not planted early enough in order for them to be nurtured, watered and cared for, to then be harvested at the right time. And unfortunately, often the sales executive and/or their sales leader would then be performance managed and micro managed to ‘lift’ their performance. The flow on effect to the culture? Not positive.
My experience and observation over the years has been that senior executives who understand this philosophy, whilst they still set exceptionally high expectations and standards, also recognise that in order for success to be sustainable and replicable, there is a gestation period that must be accepted. And rather than measure the teams performance purely on results, they place greater emphasis on measuring the ‘seeds of greatness’ their teams are planting and nurturing, because they understand that these seeds will reap rewards, as long as they are taken care of.
So, as a sales leader, how can you assist your sales people in ensuring that they are constantly planting seeds of greatness, that will stack the odds of success squarely in your corner? Here are some ideas to consider :
- Maintain a laser focus of creating an impression of increase in every interaction with your potential customers. Great sales leaders and sales people understand that it is very rare for a prospect to purchase following a single interaction. Often, prospects need to interact with you and/or your product or service between 7 and 11 times before they purchase. As such, it is so incredibly important to focus on investing in them and giving them a reason to continually interact with you. The impression of increase is all about them feeling better about themselves and their future after they have interacted with you.
- Focus your attention on giving value, without the explicit expectation of receiving something in return. Now I totally understand the dilemma and challenge of having to achieve the numbers and close sales, however, if you are able to place your focus on how you can deliver value to your customers or prospect, without any caveats, you will always be taken care of. It may not be a sale with this particular customer or prospect, however, it will come back at you, often when you least expect it, and from a prospect who you least expect it from. So give, give, and give some more.
- It is an old sales cliche, however sales is really a numbers game. The more seeds you are able to plant, the more potential opportunity you are able to create. So if you are currently meeting 5 customers per week and you are not seeing the results flow through, double it to 10 customers per week, or even 15 per week. Understand, the more seeds you are able to plant, the more fruit or vegetables you are able to harvest.
- Following on from the above point, it is vital to create a habit around continuously planting seeds, and then ensuring that you are watering and nurturing them. In B2B sales in particular, sales cycles can be anything from 3 months to 6+ months, so what you are planting today, you may not see any result for at least 90 days. But one thing is for sure, if you do not plant seeds today, you will not have an opportunity to harvest crops in 90+ days. Take the Chinese bamboo tree for example (albeit an extreme one!). The Chinese bamboo tree does not break ground for a period of 4 years, and then in the 5th year, in a matter of just 5 weeks, the tree can grow to a height of 90 feet. The critical thing here is that the bamboo tree is constantly watered and nurtured. So too, your customers and prospects must be watered and nurtured.
- Understand that at the beginning, most of your work will be in planting seeds, and over time, you will be in a position to harvest, as long as you stay in the game. Make a decision to stay the distance, don’t focus on instant gratification, because as you continue to plant the seeds of greatness, keep them watered and nurtured, you will be in a position where you can reap the rewards of the harvest. And as all great farmers will tell you, continue to plant seeds from the harvest, so you are able to harvest again. Over time, you should find yourself in a position where you are spreading your focus and attention between planting seeds, watering and nurturing, and harvesting. Being in this position will position you for sustainable success!
When it is all said and done, sales success can actually be 100% predictable, and not hit and miss. As a sales leader, your responsibility is to encourage your team to continuously plant seeds daily and then ensure that they water and nurture them. This will require a level of patience and persistence on your part, especially when you have senior executives constantly looking over your shoulder and expecting the instant result. However, if you are able to withstand the internal pressure and maintain your focus, you will find yourself in a position where success is 100% predictable and even better than that, is sustainable. And that will create a very successful business. Plant the seeds of greatness, and enjoy the harvest!!
To your sales leadership success.
If you want to know how you can better persuade and influence your team, send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
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Darren is a Sales Leadership and Sales Performance Coach, Facilitator & Speaker. He is an experienced and committed coach with a background of sales leadership success in large organisations. He applies a genuine focus to coaching and developing high performing sales leaders who are looking to unleash the potential of themselves and their teams.