Swiss Army Knives
If you are in sales do you carry a flashlight?
Many years ago I attended a sales workshop in Arizona. It didn't take much to convince me to leave Toronto Canada in the middle of winter and go to Scottsdale. Little did I know how much that trip would change my outlook on selling. Let me digress for a moment. Upon arrival at the hotel I was immediately impressed. A beautiful setting, first class service, lovely room, and sun, lots of warm sunshine! The next day, regrettably we were indoors for the first of three days in a meeting room, 17 of us, indoors in Scottsdale.
On the breaks many of us would rush to stand outside and enjoy the sun. It was on one of these breaks we were standing at a side entrance to the hotel when a large number of very tall men approached. Now I'm not a tall person. I stand 5'7" first thing in the morning before gravity sets in. Turns out these "giants" were the San Antonio Spurs basketball team in town to play the Phoenix Suns.
They were using a side entrance to avoid fans at the front of the hotel. I don't think I came up to the belly button of one of them! But back to the sales workshop. Our facilitator had a captivating Texan drawl, causing me to listen intently to his stories and tips based on years of experience. The content was terrific, the group really bonded, and the three days evaporated. Towards the end of the final day I just had to ask a question of our workshop leader who had so impressed all of us. I was about to have one of those "ah huh" moments in life. I asked "If you could share only one piece of advice on how to be a top sales person what would that be?" I'll never forget as he went into a pensive stance, holding his elbow while putting his forefinger to his lips, "What a tough question." He then paused for maybe a minute or two, it seemed longer. What he shared was so profound I have added it to my repertoire of sales truisms. It has shaped my philosophy and behavior ever since.
He started by cautioning us that in the sales profession we run the risk of developing egos bigger than the moon. Top sales people think of themselves as super stars and want to be in the spotlight. Confidence he said is a good thing, and recognition at the appropriate time and place is important in fact necessary, but an unchecked ego can do damage. And here it came, he paused and with conviction added, "If there is only one piece of advice I'd ask you remember, it is to always shine the spotlight on your customer. They are the most important person, not you!" The room went silent. Our egos on pause, we reflected hard on what we just heard. For some reason my thoughts turned to the Spurs who, two days earlier had walked past us. They play under the spotlight all the time. Fans pay to enjoy their athletic excellence on the court. We want them to be in the spotlight, we want them to succeed, and we want them to play to win.
In sales, we're not playing basketball. It's a different game, and it's one of the best games in the world. If the sales arena is where you play and you want to win, remember these words of wisdom. Always shine the spotlight on your customer.
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