Farquharson | on Business Development: If a Cat Taught You How to Sell
Working from home, the salesman faithfully (but not always enthusiastically) makes his calls day after day. His selling efforts ebb and flow, as does his motivation, drive, attention span, interest … and success. On the days that he is reaching clients and prospects, life is good and he is living la vida loca. But those days are increasingly infrequent and he struggles, feeling as though he is alone in his distress. “What am I doing wrong?” he wonders.
In an effort to improve on his sales results, he leans back in his chair, takes a deep breath, stares at the ceiling and thinks through his approach, his pitch, his methodology ... everything. “What I need is a mentor. Someone with experience whom I can watch and learn from.” But that is not a possibility given the fact that he works alone.
As he ponders his sales challenges, his thoughts are interrupted by the sound of one of his twin Russian Blue cats, scratching at the drawer containing his office supplies. This activity is a favorite of the boys, Sherlock and Mycroft, a gift from his daughter. “You two are natural hunters. Too bad you can’t teach me what I need to do in order to be a better sales rep,” he says jokingly.
Sherlock ignores him. He is busy trying to gain access to the drawer’s contents and tugs away, trying to get at whatever is inside. “Dude,” the frustrated rep says, “there is nothing in there of interest to you. There was nothing in there when you looked yesterday, and there will be nothing in there when you look tomorrow. Every day you open that drawer, look around at what is inside and then walk away, and every day I tell you the same thing. Give it up. You are wasting your time.”
After a moment, the rep adds with a chuckle, “But I will give you this: You certainly are persistent, and that is a valuable sales lesson. You’d make for a good mentor.” Soon, he is back to staring at the ceiling, until suddenly …
“Persistency,” the rep thinks and shoots up in his chair. “That would be the first thing I’d learn if my sales mentor was a cat. In addition to looking for new ‘lead’ sources, they go back over their existing prospects again and again, never giving up. Sherlock, that’s a pretty good place to start. I could definitely learn from watching the way you two look under the same rocks day after day, despite the fact that you get turned away day after day. Who knows? Maybe some day you will look in that drawer and strike gold! I really should be more persistent. Thanks for that reminder. That’s lesson number one, Sales Sensei. OK, what else do you have to teach me?”
Sherlock is listening, but his brother is fixated on something outside and sits on the windowsill, raptured. Standing up to look over his shoulder, the rep says, “Hmmmm … what’s your lesson, Mycroft? What can I learn from you? All I see is a cat watching leaves blow by. Where’s the lesson in simply being curious?”
But as he sits back down, he ponders the lesson: “Be sales curious. I need to pay more attention and look for opportunities in everything around me. There might be prospects blowing by me like leaves in the wind, and I am not noticing because I am not seeing what is right in front of me: newspaper articles, press releases, offers that come in my mailbox … everywhere! The best source for new sales is to be found in my daily life. I just need to look for it. I need to be more curious. Thanks, Mycroft!”
“Boys, you are crushing it right now. This is as motivated as I have been in a long time. What else do you have to teach me?” But as he turns to look at them, Sherlock and Mycroft are gone. The rep stands and heads out to look for them. It doesn’t take long. His two little, grey friends are heading to their food dishes. “No lessons here, I’d bet. All you two are doing now is following the same process you do when you are hungry, thirsty and tired. You eat, drink, clean yourselves and take a nap.”
“Hmmm ... consistency of process. Maybe there is a lesson to be learned here. What could I do to make my selling activities more consistent? Right now I make calls, but they are scattered and have no rhythm to them. I fit them in around other activities and make the calls primarily when things are slow. Perhaps setting up a step-by-step, week-by-week system of ongoing attempts would yield better results. Or maybe …”
<<Thump!>> Something hits his foot. The rep looks down to see what was just unceremoniously dropped on him, interrupting his thought. He looks down and sees a very proud Mycroft standing over a dead mouse, a gift from a grateful cat. “Thank you, buddy. I am well aware that the unexpected customer gift is usually well-received ... unless it’s a dead mouse, that is. But still, it’s a good reminder.”
“Boys, I have to thank you. You have taught me and reminded me of some valuable lessons. I am going to be more persistent and not give up, looking under rocks that I have looked under in the past. And I will keep my eyes open for sales opportunities in my everyday life. In addition, I promise to be more consistent with my sales process. Finally, I will remember to display gratitude towards my clients and show it in the form of the unexpected thank you.”
As it turns out, sales lessons are all around us. All it takes is to pay attention. The key elements to sales success can be seen in the activities that happen during a normal day. You don’t need a 30-year sales veteran working next to you to find an example of how the job gets done. Cats make good mentors when you are looking to increase your sales ... or even when you are stuck coming up with an idea for a column!