Farquharson/Tedesco on Business Development: Presidents Day Sales Analogies
Every third Monday in February your authors celebrate one of our favorite holidays. No, not National Tortilla Chip Day—that's the 24th. We're talking about Presidents Day. The reason we love this holiday is simple: It celebrates George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, two of America's greatest salesmen...er...leaders.
What characteristics made these two so great? Determination? Courage? The ability to rock a set of wooden teeth or a stovepipe hat? Sure, all of the above. But you don't need a 1,000-word column telling you to be courageous. We'd fall asleep writing it.
What Sales Challenges?
You think you've got a tough sale to make? How about Washington saying to the comfortable American gentry, "Let's poke a stick in King Georgie's eye. If we fail, your family loses everything. Plus, you'll hang for treason. What do you say, boys? Follow me!"
What about Lincoln forcefully stating that, "government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth." How exactly was that going to work in the summer of 1863, considering how far apart the Union and the Confederacy were at this point?
Talk about salesmen!
Did you know that Washington lost more battles than he won? Did you know that Lincoln lost more elections than he won?
The Father of our Country usually won when it mattered most, like at the Battle of Yorktown. Washington's victory there led directly to the British recognizing America's independence. Hey, George—thanks for that!
Honest Abe also won when it mattered most. One can hardly imagine what a map of North America, and indeed the world, would look like had Lincoln said to Stephen A. Douglas and the other candidates for prez in 1861, "Y'all are kicking my butt; go ahead and take this thankless job."
What can we, as print shop owners and salespeople, learn from our great presidents No. 1 and No. 16? First, don't worry about past losses. Fuhgeddaboutem! No matter how experienced you are, from time to time you'll blow a sale. Instead, focus on being there for your customers when they need you most.
"Malice toward none; charity for all," is a well-known Lincoln quote. We couldn't agree more! Lincoln's extraordinary empathy allowed him to greatly influence friends and foes alike, helping him rack up an impressive list of accomplishments. How empathetic are you? When you're listening to customers rant, do you go out of your way to empathize with them? Or, like many salespeople, are you waiting for them to shut up so you can make your point?
Listening isn't enough. If you want to provide useful leadership to your clients, take a walk in their shoes. Understand their obstacles, pains and the challenges that keep them up at night. If you can visualize their problems and present solutions, you'll sell more! Trust us—we're in sales!
Picture your exasperated prospect waiting for a print shipment that should've arrived. Imagine them sheepishly telling their client or boss that a key deadline will be missed because their printer—you—let them down. This sort of visualization will help you better understand the challenges of the people you're trying to influence. From there you can provide the guidance they need to better succeed.
Not only was Lincoln an expert on his own weaknesses, he took advantage of this knowledge. Honest Abe tended to give subordinates too many chances, so he came up with ways to keep himself in check. When Union Army chief George McClellan refused to follow orders, Lincoln set a deadline for himself for removing the wayward general, knowing that otherwise the future would be the same as the past.
Take a lesson from Lincoln. Know your weaknesses, anticipate situations out in the field where you might be susceptible to them and develop savvy strategies to keep them from holding you back. This kind of thinking is what sets the Lincolns of the world apart!
Washington refused to pander to constituents. He had zero problems making unpopular decisions as long as they were in the country's best interests. Take the Whiskey Tax. Tax increases are about as popular as the legendary and mostly fictitious Farquharson-Tedesco polka band. Yet Washington's vision of creating a healthy, stable nation depended on better funding. (Side note: If we've misjudged interest in our polka band, and 25 readers demand a recording, we'll post one on YouTube!)
As sales leaders, we often must provide guidance that's in customers' best interests, but may annoy them at times. Take the word "no," for example. Sometimes, your customer must hear this frightful word roll off your tongue. Great sales leaders don't worry about pleasing their customers 100 percent of the time; that's impossible.
Lincoln and Washington were intelligent, strong-willed, near-fearless leaders. They made decisions their constituents hated, as well as making mistakes. Being a great sales leader is less about possessing gobs of admirable, deity-like qualities and more about just working smart and doing the right thing. That's a message of which both Washington and Lincoln would eagerly approve. PI
About the Authors
T.J. Tedesco is team leader at Grow Sales Inc., a marketing and PR services company that has served graphic arts companies since 1996. He wrote "Direct Mail Pal 2012" and seven other books. Contact Tedesco at (301) 294-9900 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Bill Farquharson is a vice president at NAPL. Farquharson can help drive your sales. Visit www.aspirefor.com or call him at (781) 934-7036.
For further information, please visit BillFarquharson.com