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The Leads are Not Weak. Your Culture is Weak.

by Jeremy Nulik

These are the new leads. These are the Glengarry leads. And to you, they’re gold. And you don’t get themWhy? Because to give them to you is just throwing them away. - Blake, Glengarry Glen Ross

One of my first gigs after college was door-to-door coupon sales. I would knock on a suburban Chicago home’s door and try my best to ensure the owner of the dwelling I was not selling something crazy. They needed to stop what they are doing and purchase coupons from a stranger sweating at their door.

It was a numbers game. A good closing ratio number according to the “special training” was 10 percent. With a 20 bucks per coupon book commission, I needed to average around 10 sales per day to meet expenses. That’s 100 door knocks. That’s if I was good.

Well, I was good. I don’t say that with any hubris. Attaining the title of “top door-to-door sales guy in the Chicago suburbs in the early 2000’s for a few months” is not an honor I set out to achieve. But, I could beat the closing ratio nearly every day. I averaged 25 percent. My improved performance was not because of experience or specialized knowledge or talent. It was, I hate to say it, because I made my job into my own game.

One weekend morning our sales meeting consisted of watching “Glengarry Glen Ross.” The film’s irony was lost on the management. But I did pull a gem from it: I did not have to play a numbers game. Sales, at least from what my recently college graduated mind could gather, was a game I could play any way I wanted to.

Here was my game setup: I would request the accounts that had the lowest sales. I would interview the previous sales people to learn what their tactics had been. Then I would make sure there was a new guy with me for the day – my two weeks of tenure made me a veteran.

Here is what I did: I would call the number on the coupon book and learn something from the manager about why they were in the neighborhood. Then I would study the previous sales guys’ pitch and take the opposite approach to the first doors. I would use the new guy as a set of eyes and ears and have him review my pitch every time.

The results: I could find compelling messaging and a general posture that was most successful after about ten doors. Then I would hustle. I could walk faster and take a shorter break than my counterparts, so I could get smarter and close more.

Today, the reductionist idea about sales is more pervasive than ever. And I have seen my industry touting this “numbers game” in the form of data-driven marketing. Those marketing campaigns work – at least on the surface. They churn out a bunch of leads.

But what happens when you dump all of these leads into an organization that has not been brought into alignment with your strategy? And, worse yet, what if your only strategy was to generate numbers? I have seen what happens. A lot of whining and then nothing.

I would encourage you to not reduce your company’s growth efforts to a numbers game. We are a species that is capable of much more, and sales still take place within the minds of humans. Rather than focusing on the transactional side of the sale, you can create an environment where the humans in your organization can create their own game. The question for you is: How much are you allowing yourself and your employees to create a game so they can succeed?

Here is an exercise to try: Gather your team. Tell them they just received a promotion, and they are all partners in the company. Divide them into groups of three or four and present them with a growth-oriented challenge. Based on the knowledge they have and the resources they have available, ask them to detail the strategy they would use to solve it.

They may not have better ideas than you. The strength of this exercise is the exercise. You allow for the emergence of leadership and the idea that they can innovate their own solutions. It provides you with a look into their psyche and how well they can problem solve. Most importantly, it is a beginning toward creating an environment that is thinking about growth.

Jeremy Nulik (jeremy@bigwidesky.com) is evangelist prime at bigwidesky, a human business consultancy, in St. Louis, Mo.

Submitted 3 years 286 days ago
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