With the year-end push behind him, Matt wasn’t looking forward to rebuilding his pipeline. Yet he knew that his boss would be on him to “pound the phones” as soon as he got into the office.
More, more. Faster, faster. Close, close. It was an endless cycle that sometimes made him question why he stayed in this profession.
At least the traffic was light as he drove into work. Perhaps it was a positive omen, something he desperately needed after that weird dream that had been haunting him for days.
He decided to treat himself to a latte at Starbucks before starting his prospecting marathon. On entering, he saw Danielle, the team’s perennial superstar, tucked away in a corner table. She made selling look easy.
And, he realized with a start, she’d been a key player in that dream. Maybe she’d have some insights into it’s meaning.
After getting his latte, Matt sauntered over. “Happy New Year! Mind if I interrupt?”
Danielle looked up and smiled, “I’ve been waiting for you. Have a seat. And, tell me about your dream.”
“How did you know?” Matt stuttered. But not even waiting for an answer, he continued, “It was the strangest thing. Our team, all of us, were at a big race track.
“We were at the starting gate, each of us behind the wheel of these high performance cars. The boss was out in front with the starting gun. When he pulled the trigger, we all took off – at full speed.
“I was out of the gate before any of you. Then, just as I was rounding the first curve, a big sign popped up and said: Haste makes waste. I thought it was strange. Then seconds later, another sign appeared: Slow is the new fast.
“I ignored it and kept on going. Even more rapidly, a third sign appeared: Slow down. Danger ahead.
This time I braked slightly. Almost instantly, Tom, Andy & Ali passed me. I sped up again, only to have another sign show up: Caution. Speed kills. I cooled it right then and there. Everyone else on the team passed me by.
“Except you. You pulled up alongside me and we drove side-by-side for the rest of the race. The strange thing is, we won.”
Danielle was smiling, “Cool dream. Mine – which happened six years ago – was very different. You need to realize that you’ve been selected to learn the Lost Art of the Quick Start.”
“What in the world are you talking about?” asked Matt. "It sounds like punishment. Or something really remedial. Do people think I'm that much of a loser?"
“Not at all,” said Danielle. “It’s really quite an honor. And, clearly I’ve been selected to pass it on to you. The secrets I’ll be sharing will give you a jumpstart on meeting your quota. And, they’ll keep you at the top of the leader board for as long as you practice them.
“Let’s start at the beginning. You’ve already been exposed to Lesson #1: Slow is the new fast.”
“That’s what those signs were about,” Matt said excitedly. “But what’s wrong with getting out of the gate quickly?”
“Tons of things,” said Danielle. “You call on the wrong companies and contact the wrong people. You say or write the wrong things in your messaging. You get deleted or brushed off almost immediately. Then you repeat the same cycle over and over again. That’s insanity. You’re wasting your own time. You’re wasting opportunities. And, you’re damaging your credibility.”
“Okay. You’ve got my attention now. That sounds just like me,” said Matt. “But isn’t that what sales is all about?”
Danielle answered, “That’s what bad sales is all about. To get off to a quick start, you need focus. You need to analyze which companies are most likely to do business with you. You need to assess which trigger events speed up sales cycles. You need to review your current client base to determine other ways you can help them.”
“You do all that?” asked Matt.
“What do you think I’m doing here this morning?” she replied. “It’s how I start every year.”
“Phew. I’m all set to go pound the phones and you’re here thinking,” he said. “Very interesting. What else do I need to learn?”
“Lesson #2: Strive for Maximum Impact. Make sure that every single interaction with your prospects and clients yields the best possible outcome,” she answered.
“That’s exactly what I’m hoping for – all the time,” said Matt.
“Hope is not enough. It’s preparation that matters. The more you can do ahead of time, the faster your sales process goes. Let me tell you what I do before each meeting. I look people up on LinkedIn, Twitter and other industry groups. I find out what they say about themselves. I look for commonalities, starting points. I research their company (and sometimes their industry) to find out anything I can about their challenges, goals, issues, objectives and more,” she said.
“You do all that? Every time?” Matt asked in disbelief.
“Absolutely,” she said. “Then I take time to craft a custom message, think of relevant stories to share and write down questions to ask. Every time. I refuse to waste an opportunity. That’s what maximum impact is all about. And that’s why I close deals faster too.”
Matt was getting excited. Although he’d never done a lot of what she was describing, he knew we was capable of it. “What else am I missing?” he asked.
“Lesson #3: Don’t sell. Help,” Danielle replied. “It’s actually my favorite. I’ve discovered that if I focus on helping my prospects and clients achieve their objectives, everything else falls in place. I also help them put together a business case for change and guide them through the decision making process. In the end, we all win.”
“But when do you sell? You know, give ‘em your pitch.”
“I don’t,” she answered. “We just talk about things. Good relevant conversations about what matters to them. By doing that, I get their business. It’s almost like magic.”
“Seriously,” Matt interrupted. “By doing these things, you actually get off to a quick start? It’s not what the boss is telling us!”
“But it’s true,” said Danielle. “Too many people are focused on the wrong things. Activities. Pitches. Demos. Strutting their stuff. But I understand where you’re coming from.
“I used to be just like you, a hard-charging salesperson, working my butt off to close deals. Then one day, I thought to myself, There’s got to be a better way. The next day, I had the dream. It’s been six years now and I love my job more than ever.
“Wow,” said Matt. “What’s been the hardest part?”
“Unlearning the old ways,” she answered. “At first, it was really hard to do things differently. I kept going back to my comfort zone. But I forced myself to keep on going, experimenting with the new way. Finally, that became ‘normal’ for me. And, I’m always thinking about how I can get better.”
“You sold me!” Matt announced loudly. “I’m going to embrace The Lost Art of the Quick Start. I think I’m going to like sales a whole lot more because of it.”
“You will. And, you’ll be much more successful – more quickly,” said Danielle. “Now, one more thing. See that table over there. I’ve reserved it for you. It’s time to start working on Lesson #1.”
“But I need to get into the office,” said Matt. “The boss is expecting me.”
“Don’t worry,” she answered. “I told him we were working together this morning on getting you off to a fast start. You’ve got another two hours before he’s expecting you.”