Thank you for all the work you have done to improve sales at TMF. The State-of-the-Art Selling and Closing Skills Presentations and 90 day follow-up programs you provided to our teams across three geo.. Maria van der Sluijs-Plantz
Chief Executive Officer – TMF Group B.V.


Is persistence DEAD?

I lost a client yesterday.  And I lost it because the salespeople I was training and motivating were not willing to see their learning through, though they had just hit their sales goal for the first time in 13 months!

Why?  I think it’s because the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior, not new learning.

And when new learning is in an emotional, scary area – like how to be a better salesperson – it’s particularly hard to get people to USE what they have learned.  Even if, when they use it, they hit their target!

We all get into habits, and salespeople are no exception.  Get someone to use a new sales skill, and even if they sell more as a result, they are still likely to return to old, less successful sales behaviors.

So, when I go into organizations to update everyone’s selling skills, I nearly always do a follow-up program, to make sure the people I’m working with USE the new skills and BRING IN SIGNIFICANT NEW SALES DOLLARS (or euros, or forints, you get the idea) as a result.

My now-former client brought me 
in to work with their Sales Team February 14-16, and I have sent them a Sales Tip every business day since then (around 40 Daily Sales Tips so far).  Once a month, the salespeople were asked to send me a Selling Story – an example of a situation they were in this month, in which they USED something new they learned from me, and what happened as a result, good or bad.  When I received the Selling Stories, I emailed the salesperson with encouragement, suggestions, and things they might try next time they face that sort of situation.

That’s it.

Oh, I knew they were busy – so I said, "You may be too busy to read an email every day. That’s OK. Just read a couple of the Daily Sales Tips every week."

In March, their first full month following their “Selling Skills Update” training with me, this company hit their sales goal for the first time since February 2016. 

And yesterday I was fired.

Of course, I asked why.  Here’s what I was told, “The team loves your personality.  They find your style motivating.  They loved the workshop you offered – they found it inspiring.  But the follow-up program… they’re finding it difficult.  The Daily Sales Tips are too long.  And the Selling Stories are very time-consuming to write – they’re not sure what they’re getting out of it.”

Selling Stories are real-world examples of how these salespeople are addressing selling situations they encounter in their daily work.  They’re the means of tying the principles from the workshop with me to the day-to-day reality of their jobs.  I require everyone who went through the workshop to send me one Selling Story every month.  When I get a Selling Story, I encourage them and comment on it, and offer the person a chance to reply.  If they do, I usually reply to their reply.  And then, with their permission, I send the entire email string to their colleagues as one of their Daily Sales Tips – so we can all learn from each other (they have an option of this being done anonymously, eliminating the salesperson’s name, as well as that of their customer).

The feedback I get is that they LOVE the real-world examples (as opposed to my just sending them selling tools, they prefer to see how to USE the selling tools in actual selling situations that are specific to their organization).

But the bottom line is that I’m out.

And this isn’t the first time this has happened this year.  We did a social media campaign for a jewelry retailer during the six weeks before Christmas 2016, and the store experienced, according to the owner, an “incredible” holiday season.  Probably their best in 40 years! 

But when I proposed we continue the social media momentum, they chose another supplier.

So I’m wondering … is this me, or has something happened to persistence?  Are we capable of sticking with … anything … in a speeded-up, focus on whatever bright shiny object is in front of us
 type of world?  Especially when something is producing the business results we seek, how can we turn away from that?

Persistence symbolized by business woman pulling boulder up stairs using a rope.

It’s taken me years to learn what’s most effective in changing selling behaviors and consistently hitting sales targets, and a lot of it involves reinforcement of new behaviors.  And those new behaviors change fast, too – new research is available several times every month about what’s working now in selling, and I read like crazy to keep up with that.

But I can’t do that if my clients are going to shorten my engagements.  If I have to sell many more short-term engagements, I’ll be spending all my time getting up to speed fast on organizations that I’ll be in and out of very quickly.  And I know results will suffer.

My resigning client said, “Lenann, this is no reflection on you.  I hope we can work together again one day.”  Didn’t make it hurt any less!


What do you think … is persistence dead? 

Can you think of one thing – one process, one approach, one discipline – that you have recently continued to implement over time, long enough for you to get really good at it?

Copyright © 2017 Lenann McGookey Gardner Management Consulting, Inc., All rights reserved.
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