Written by Ari Greenbaum, co-founder of conXpros
As a child, I never dreamed of being in sales. Rather, I imagined myself as a fireman, police officer, or similar glorious and “cool” professions as most kids envision in their youth. As a teenager and young adult, those visions shifted from guys with uniforms and badges to lawyer, accountant, or business owner (my parents owned their own business in women’s fashion). Never did I dream or imagine that I would be in the profession of sales. I sort of stumbled into this awesome and rewarding world due to not knowing what else to do. I had dropped out of college in my second semester, was working 2 jobs (delivering pizza and waiting tables) and had no answer to anyone asking me “what do you plan to do with your life?”. Thank God, I found sales! Or I should say, sales found me. If it was not for my roommate at the time encouraging me to see what the company he worked for was doing, who knows where life would have taken me. I had no idea how awesome sales was until I got my first check. Since that time, I have spent the greater part of my adult life sharpening my skills and helping others achieve top performing results in their own sales efforts.
One of the first lessons I learned from a mentor I had in the business world still drives me today. He shared the secret to success (not only in sales, but success in anything) …Self-Awareness & Accountability. He said without both, you will not achieve success. I took his advice and have made this a practice and springboard which I attribute most of my accomplishments to. You can imagine how disturbed I was when I heard on a recent seminar a crazy statistic. The presenter shared that “only 1 out of 7 sales people self-assess AFTER every sales presentation”. How could that be? Aren’t sales people supposed to be motivated by success? How could only 1 in 7 understand this fundamental concept that I had been gifted so long ago? The presenter then added that it should be no surprise that the same 1 in 7 that religiously practice this approach are also the top performers in every organization that he had been associated with. Why would someone be in the wonderful world of sales and desire anything less than top performer status? I will remain baffled by this question for a long time.
My company is a home improvement lead generation company and this blog is part of that platform. Thus, I will try to keep this article focused on how this concept is a gamechanger for those fortunate enough to either own or be a salesperson for a home improvement or home services company (but the concepts are universal to anyone in sales). Since I first entered the lead generation business in 2008, I have spent the majority of those years selling leads for home improvement projects to contractors. I did take a few years to get on the “other side of the fence” and worked for companies selling home services & improvements in-home to customers (Heating & Cooling, Roofing, & Window replacements). I have always achieved success regardless of the industry I found myself in. This was no different. So how does a guy that has never done in-home sales & had little face to face sales experience achieve top producer status even when surrounded by industry vets? Likely because I was 1 of the 7 mentioned above that practiced self-assessment and refused to accept anything less than excellence from myself. This same approach has allowed conXpros to quickly establish ourselves as a company built to last in a challenging business. It has also allowed me to teach the same to those around me and watch them grow and achieve more than they would have imagined. I cannot take all of the credit. Clearly the individuals had to not just learn the concepts, but apply them as a religious practice to reap the rewards. Kudos to them, huge respect!
What exactly is it that 85% of sales professionals do not do and less than 15% refuse not to do? I love acronyms to help remember concepts for myself and those I coach. To best explain this process, I use the A-A-A approach:
Awareness: The first step in self-improvement is awareness. Unless you are aware of what you are doing, it is virtually impossible to improve upon it. Awareness allows you to work on what I refer to as one of the most challenging feats for salespeople, consistency. The key to self-awareness is asking yourself the right questions to drive positive change. I suggest the following sequence (in this order):
- “What did I do well?” – It is important to begin with the positive assessment. How can we be aware of what we are doing well if we do not recognize it? Once answered, keep doing those positive actions!
- “What can I do better?” or “What can I improve upon?” – Amazingly, many salespeople phrase that question in a destructive or negative way. For example, “what did I do wrong?”, or some variation of the same concept. As I share with anyone taking that approach, the only thing you did “wrong” is asking yourself that question! You must come from a constructive or anabolic perspective. By asking what can I improve upon, you provide yourself the launching pad for consistent improvement and success.
Accountability: Once you have the answers to your awareness questions, you can now move to the next phase which is accountability. This is an area that most salespeople fall short. To grow, you must make commitments and hold yourself accountable. Often you can use metrics to achieve this, but the key is knowing what you should be doing and being honest with yourself why you are not doing so. Accountability is defined by looking inward first & only after thoroughly doing so, looking outside if the answers were not already clear. Stephen Covey does an exceptional job conveying the inside-out concept in his book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. This is where the challenging part comes in. Human nature is to look outside or make excuses (sound like salespeople you know?), not look at ourselves for answers. I never said being a top producer is easy but is sure is rewarding.
Action: Without action, self-awareness and accountability are no different than the lifelong student that never applies what they learn in books or the classroom to real life. Imagine if Thomas Edison only analyzed why his attempts to find a filament for a light bulb were not working but did not take any actions to do something different the next time around. I elaborate more on the importance of action in a previous post dedicated to goals. Action drives the success and ability to improve at a rapid pace.
When you combine the A-A-A approach and take your success and growth seriously, the limits of achievement are boundless. I never imagined myself making a career in sales, let alone owning a company that is completely sales driven, yet that is exactly where I find myself 25+ years after dropping out of college. I could not be happier, but I also know too many salespeople that do not share that euphoria. We all have the same opportunities; the difference is that a select few of us take the necessary steps to achieve the highest level of success. In my opinion, in the home improvement profession this is magnified more than other professions that are sales related. Many contractors are great craftsmen or technicians, yet lack in sales skills. Others are fantastic at running a business but fall short in other areas. Understanding that if you choose (or coach your team to choose) the path to sales success through awareness, accountability, and action, you will not only launch yourself to top performer status in your own company, but put yourself in the driver’s seat when competing with other home improvement pros. You all have good products and can do good work. Not all of you will do what it takes to elevate your sales game to levels that dominate your competition. To those that choose to follow this path…see you at the top.