Save the Platitudes for the Athletes

sales leader improve sales

Have you ever watched a post-game interview with an athlete? No matter what sport they play, they all seem to speak in a kind of Mad Lib of clichés and platitudes. Their answers to even the most pointed questions are often so vague and generic that they might as well have said nothing at all.

Why did the team win this particular game? Take your pick …

  • “Everyone gave their best out there today.”
  • “I am just thankful to God, my family, and the coaching staff.”
  • “Everyone just came together, it was a team effort.”

It’s not surprising that a player isn’t capable of deep reflection on their aching and tired walk back to the locker room. We expect our athletes to do their talking with their actions on the field. We’re fans, and most of us aren’t really all that interested in the in-depth answers to these questions. We just want to hear someone we admire speak about the great thing they just did in the name of providing us with distraction and entertainment.

For instance, imagine an athlete who answered that same question in detail …

“Well, this last week in practice everyone applied extra focus on the game films and researching our competition. We agreed to ramp up this week’s practice, coming in an hour early to fine tune some ideas the coaching staff put together. I also worked extensively with one of the assistant coaches to work around an injury I’ve been coping with all season. A big part of today’s success was executing the plan, and not getting rattled when some big things didn’t go our way. It all boils down to the dedication of our support staff, the ingenuity of our coaches, and the entire team being willing to put in the time and sweat to make that preparation pay off today.”

As informative as this may be, it’s almost too much information. Athletes live in a world of sound bites, and if they all stopped giving post-game interviews tomorrow, not very much would change. What works for an athlete, however, doesn’t work for a sales leader.

I talk to at least one sales leader every day. While some of them are extremely articulate and thoughtful about their work, a surprising amount of them speak in the sales equivalent of an athlete’s post-game grab bag of one-size-fits-all answers. This is a real problem, because I’m not looking for a simple answer.

To implement a customer relationship management (CRM) solution, I need a wide variety of highly detailed and specific information. That’s hard to do when one side of the conversation is dominated by low-content sales clichés. At company after company, I hear plenty of variations on these statements …

  • “Our process is unique, we sell differently than anyone else.”
  • “Improve our sales ratios? It’s a numbers game with our industry, and we just need to make more calls.”
  • “We don’t have a problem with sales performance. The economy (or a slump in our industry) is the reason we are not executing.”
  • “My sales people will not adapt well to a new process. We don’t want to disrupt the business.”
  • “We don’t need a formal process to qualify leads, our sales people just ‘know’ when they’re talking to a sale.”
  • “I have a good feel for our sales pipeline. A new sales forecasting methodology really wouldn’t help us very much.”

These responses only exist to quickly shut down any discussion about changing their current sales process. Even when it’s clear the sales process needs to be improved, many sales leaders end up arguing against their own best interests. It seems strange, but I have a theory about why this happens.

During these meetings, I often think if something Stephen Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, once wrote. “Don’t argue for other people’s weaknesses. Don’t argue for your own. When you make a mistake, admit it, correct it, and learn from it — immediately.”

Of course, humans have a natural resistance to change. If it’s working — even if it isn’t working very well — why try to fix it? Those by-the-numbers objections are really just a symptom of inertia. They’re arguing for their own weaknesses.

In today’s increasingly competitive business world, you simply can’t afford to stay still. You have to change and evolve, adapting to new situations, customer needs and market forces. It’s true in every industry — from consumer products to healthcare — and the most dangerous thing you can do is remain static and unchanging. If you want to remain relevant, you can’t let inertia and cliché excuses hold you back.

My advice? Leave the platitudes to the athletes. Act like a sales leader, and rediscover your hunger for new tools, ideas, and methodologies. Seek out solutions that will improve your team’s outcomes. Don’t let a fear of change prevent you from seeing game-changing results.

Are you looking to best equip your sales team? Want to know more about how a CRM can help a sales leader? Learn how SugarCRM can help you. Contact us today or call (+1) 800.391.4055

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