Should you be reading this post? This post is for sales leaders. Does that mean sales managers or sales VPs, or does it mean all sales practitioners? Maybe if you’re in marketing, operations, engineering or [even!] finance, you might consider yourself a sales leader. That’s up to you to decide. If you want to classify yourself as a member of the sales leaders club, that’s a good thing, but if you do – these are the rules if you want to maintain your membership today.
- Show some positive leadership
- Stop using the economy as an excuse for under-performance
- Do whatever it takes to delight your customer
- Crush your competition who are still whining about how hard things are
- Take a moon shot
The title of this post was the title of an ad posted by the renowned explorer, Ernest Shackleton for his 1914 Endurance expedition to the Antarctic. The full text read “”Men wanted for hazardous journey. Small wages, bitter cold, long months of complete darkness, constant danger, safe return doubtful. Honor and recognition in case of success.” Not your typical pithy marketing message!
Shackleton, who was born in County Kildare, in Ireland, led the Discovery, Nimrod and Endurance expeditions to the Antarctic. In the event, the Endurance was trapped and crushed by the Antarctic ice, forcing the 28 crew to take to the sea in open lifeboats. When they reached a barren island, Shackleton and five others set out in a lifeboat to sail 800 miles and then trek 22 miles across unexplored mountains, glaciers and snowfields for help. They mustered a rescue attempt, and the crew were saved in August 1916, almost two years after the expedition started. No lives were lost. Understandably, Shackleton’s exploits have been cited by many as the ultimate example of leadership in difficult times.
Today’s world is a risky place – but it’s always been that way; it’s purely a matter of degree. The cartoon character Charlie Brown once said “I’ve developed a new philosophy… I only dread one day at a time.” As the markets tumble and budgets tighten, this philosophy is being adopted by too many sales and business leaders. But as a sales leader, you have more control over your own destiny than any other profession. In most cases – you eat what you kill – so it’s time to cast aside the crutch of despondency and hone those hunting skills. You owe it too your company, you owe it to your team and you owe it to your colleagues.
Major market winners have been built in difficult times. This is not the time of a Great Depression, but is the time of the Great Disruption. Disruptive solutions are what your customers are seeking, solutions that help them deal with the challenges they face, solutions that less creative competitors fail to bring. Your customers are suffering, and are looking, not for someone to share a despondent beer with, but someone to share a celebratory glass of champagne with as together you solve problems that at first glance might seem intractable.
The sales profession has always been one that relies on confidence to fuel progress. That’s not just because a sales person’s life is one peppered at once with rejection and disappointment, in equal measure to acceptance and success. It is also because the positive aspect most successful sales people present to their customers drives a belief, from the customer’s perspective, that the sales person can truly help.
It’s a time for leadership. It’s a time to remember that your products still add the value they did before things got tough – and that customer’s needs are even greater now as they see solutions to an ever-increasing list of problems.
The journey will undoubtedly be somewhat hazardous – but it’s time for men, or women, who want to emerge victorious to stand up and be counted. You will surely endure.