Quick note: My team developed a handy Chrome extension to find the best LinkedIn hashtags for posts. Download here and read more about it at the end of this email.
Have you ever watched the movie Speed? It was an action movie from back in the 90’s and one of my all-time favorites. Dennis Hopper truly embodied the role of the villain, and the protagonists, Sandra Bullock and Keanu Reeves, had so much chemistry.
What really made the movie click though was the momentum. There were rarely any lulls, the story just kept moving, much like the public bus that was central to the plot. Hopefully I am not spoiling the movie for anyone here, but the key element of the story is that the bus full of passengers cannot go below 50 miles an hour, otherwise it blows up with everyone inside.
Sales is like the bus from the movie. Go below a certain momentum, and the chances of making the numbers blows up. Unlike other professions where there are peaks and valleys of activity, sales is always on, all the time. Even during sales territory planning and Sales Kickoff Season, like most of us are in now, the selling does not stop.
The numbers do not skip a quarter. The quotas do not get smaller. The revenue expectations do not get a pass from the CFO or investors. At Oracle, if you missed one quarter, fine. If you missed two quarters, you got shown the door.
Even with the constant pressure and the hefty demands, I have sometimes found sales teams where not everyone is operating with the same level of urgency. In rare cases, I have walked sales floors where it felt like the entire team was either playing hooky or playing dead. Over the past year with a pandemic still raging, more teams have felt adrift and lost without the stimulation of being together as a team in the same room.
There is certainly an energy from being together and the camaraderie of being on a tightknit team. That is external motivation. It is very “rah-rah” and intoxicating in the moment. Then the tap runs dry once things start going off script and plans go south.
It is scary to see this happen, as I have on a few occasions. When I was at Siebel, we were riding high as the undisputed leader in the CRM market. Then the Dot Com bust and 9/11 crushed our string of blowing out our numbers every quarter. Deals dried up or got postponed. Other competitors started chipping away. The swagger died, top reps bailed, and the company never recovered.
Even in this downturn though, some reps managed to exceed expectations, quarter after quarter. They never missed a beat. For those of us that remained, we knew our responsibility loud and clear. We did not need management on our backs, rah-rah sales kickoffs, or team bonding exercises. We just did the work. We were intrinsically motivated to do what needed to be done to win.
Intrinsic motivation does not mean that you are firing on all cylinders all the time. We are human. We get tired and emotional. We have flaws and experience lapses in judgment. What intrinsic motivation does provide is an internal mental spring that pushes back and sets us on the right path again. This is the source of sales resilience and allows us as professionals to turn setbacks into fuel for action.
Not everyone has a spring that has much springiness though. You see the symptoms in lack of new pipeline generation, deals getting pushed back, incomplete account plans, number of booked meetings slows, follow ups take longer than they should or not at all. There is activity without outcomes or impact. Without urgency and the tension that motivation brings, it is sales in slow motion.
When I joined Amazon, one of things I noticed immediately was that the default speed was full speed go. This is baked into one of the 14 leadership principles, bias for action:
“Speed matters in business. Many decisions and actions are reversible and do not need extensive study. We value calculated risk taking.”
We recognize that without speed, we stall as an organization. The larger and more complex the organization, the more likely that speed hits roadblocks, especially in a company the size of Amazon. Without bias for action, innovation slows, collaboration stalls, and customer needs languish. Speed is what puts the customer flywheel that is central to Amazon’s business model in motion.
Instrumental to moving fast is making decisions quickly. How often do we find ourselves wavering on decisions though that should not require so much thought? Just think about the time we spend thinking about what to eat or what to wear.
Another core part of the Amazon culture is the concept of one-way versus two-way doors. When I talked about Good Mistakes, I explained that one-way doors are decisions of major consequence and impossible to revoke, whereas two-way doors can be readily reversed. This gives you the latitude to take chances, fail sometimes, and learn in the process.
Even if the culture of your company gives you the freedom to try, fail, and learn, you may still resist moving fast. It is important to recognize that factors like tension with bosses, lack of psychological safety in the workplace, and family and personal issues can play a factor. When those things are not factors though, our biggest obstacle is in the head trash that clutters our minds and blocks us from taking action.
We tend to overcomplicate our decision making, otherwise known as Complexity Bias. We will choose to add steps or processes or factors in an otherwise straightforward decision. Take prospecting as an example, where you would otherwise pick up the phone and dial a prospect. Instead you get caught up in what to say, striking the right tone, getting your desk organized, considering the prospect’s frame of mind, and whether to dial now or after lunch. It would be easier to just make the call, but you spend time arguing with yourself in your head. The result is no action, no progress, and a growing backlog of work.
Instead of overthinking tasks and getting caught up in analysis paralysis, do these two things:
Make a mental note to focus only on doing for a set amount of time,
Build more immediate goals to encourage progress.
Often the enormity and discomfort of a task seems daunting, like make a 100 dials a day or book 25 meeting this week. Break it down to into more manageable chunks like 15 calls in the next hour. This give you an objective and timeframe that seems more manageable. Then focus on that goal, pushing aside any and all distractions or internal hesitations.
I often say that salespeople should spend more time thinking. The thinking is what you do in preparation for performing. When I was learning to golf many years ago, a golf pro shared this advice, “Don’t try to fix your swing on the golf course. That is what the range is for.” Just as an athlete or musician will train, practice, and refine before the game or concert, you do the same in sales. There is time to write your scripts and emails, to perfect your calling technique, to practice your pitch, and to tune your process. Then there is time to focus on pure execution, getting shit done, and knocking out goals.
Get into the habit of making decisions faster. Decide to get your work done now. Avoid procrastinating or overcomplicating the task at hand. And repeat in your mind that the only barrier to your sales success is you. You might think that what I am sharing is overly simple, but that is the magic of fast decision making. It forces speed and motion. The best salespeople and teams don’t wait, they act.
What are you going to do TODAY to change or remove one thing that is getting in the way of your progress?
Mark Birch, Founder of the Enterprise Sales Forum
Remember when I talked about building a LinkedIn audience in this newsletter and I posted a list of top LinkedIn hashtags I pulled together?
Well now there is a simple Chrome extension that lets you search for the best hashtags right from within a LinkedIn post! It is called…hold on…LinkedIn Hashtags! I know, not all that original, but did I mention it is a free, useful tool you can try right now?
How is this helpful? Many LinkedIn posts simply get no traction unless you already have a huge following. By strategically using certain hashtags, you can get more views and engagement on your posts and reach people beyond your LinkedIn network. This is especially useful as you build your online reach and credibility to attract prospects or to point job seekers to your awesome sales roles.
Want to try it out? Click the button to download and install the extension today!
Key features include:
⭐Toolbar icon lets you search for hashtags and provide you follower count
⭐Follower counts show dynamically when adding hashtags to a post
⭐Get Followers button shows total follower counts for all hashtags in your post
Let me know if you find it useful, what features you might like to see added, and what other things you would like to improve about the LinkedIn posting experience.
Thanks for trying out this free and easy to use social networking tool and look forward to it helping you elevate your sales content posting and social selling strategy 😀
If you found this essay personally helpful, I encourage you to sign up for the weekly Enterprise Sales Forum Newsletter where I share my thoughts on the state of B2B sales, practical tips for improving your sales acumen, and upcoming sales talks across the global Enterprise Sales Forum community.