“Maybe we should stop coaching and be more directive so we can accelerate results now.” Unfortunately, this is the message I’m hearing from senior leadership to their front line sales managers, as companies fearfully scramble to reinvent themselves. While leaders are masters at over-engineering things, the answer to boosting your joy, confidence, quality of life and productivity is simple. Raise your mental thermostat one degree.
The Storm Before The Calm
It was day two of delivering my sales leadership coach training course for the talented leaders at Microsoft in São Paulo, Brazil.
During one of the breaks, I caught a few minutes of the news back home. This was the first story I heard.
Atlanta, Georgia. January 28-29, 2014. Winter Storm Leon, which left about two inches of snow covering the Carolinas, Georgia and Alabama, hit Atlanta particularly hard.
The storm, which killed at least seven people, swept over a region of about 60 million largely unaccustomed to ice and snow – stretching from Texas through Georgia and into the Carolinas.
Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed came under fire for his response to a storm that trapped hundreds of children in schools overnight, some without provisions, and created traffic jams stretching for miles on roads coated with two inches of snow.
Students slept in school gyms. Workers slept in the aisles at CVS. Many slept in their cars. About 800 students were stranded overnight in Birmingham schools.
Along with more than 2,600 U.S. flights canceled and hundreds of others delayed, about 800 traffic accidents were reported in the city.
Atlanta’s price tag for this storm? $13.5 million. That’s what city officials spent to treat roads, pay overtime, provide equipment and materials, feed and house workers, and then clean up the streets.
One Degree Changes Everything
While you may not remember nor have known about this storm, you may remember what you were taught in elementary school when studying science.
We learned that water freezes at 0° Celsius/32° Fahrenheit. Water will not freeze with the temperature air at or above 33 degrees Fahrenheit, regardless of how far the wind chill is below freezing.
After watching the news, I took a pause.
One degree would have changed everything.
If it was just one degree warmer during this storm in Atlanta, this tragic experience and compounded collateral damage would have never happened.
One degree made the difference between just another evening of bad weather and a winter disaster. And one degree would have saved Atlanta from all this horrific damage, most importantly, the loss of life, and then, the financial cost incurred of over 13.5 million dollars.
ONE Question Can Make or Break a Sale
Now apply this one-degree mindset to sales. Think about all the times that, if you just asked that ONE MORE QUESTION, you would have been able to uncover their preliminary objections, interest, needs, challenges, decision-making process, project priority and timing, decision-makers, and budget or how they determine budget.
As such, ONE more strategic question can make the difference between the right or wrong prospect, so you can now maximize your time by focusing on filling your sales funnel with the strongest selling opportunities.
Conversely, think of the exponential cost of not raising the depth of your discovery process by one degree. One question can make the difference between a massive sales slump and continued success.
Because if you’re spending your time and energy following up and working with the wrong prospects, then you’re not investing all your time with the right ones. And the only constant we all have is TIME.
This can make the difference between customer retention and earning a sale, rather than your competition taking it from you.
Here are five questions that, just by asking any one of these, could make the difference between uncovering a qualified prospect, or disqualifying someone who isn’t a fit.
- To ensure I meet your expectations, what information is most important to you when making a decision like this? What factors do you consider?”
- Other than you, who else might be involved in this decision and should be included in our next meeting?
- While I know you’re comfortable with your current vendor, if we could demonstrate a higher level of value we can deliver, while saving you time and money, would you be open to working with us?
- Before I share more about us and what we can do for you, how much do you already know about (us, the industry, our product, the impact/ROI that you can expect from…)?
- What concerns, if any, do you have that could get in the way of us working together?
It’s Always About Each Step In The Journey
Since the pandemic hit in February, 2020, I’ve spent the majority of my time working with sales executives and their sales teams; assessing the effectiveness of their workforce transformation and how they’ve been managing, selling, coaching, adapting and working through this pandemic that shifted the landscape of our workplace forever.
Companies are scrambling to get back to a new sense of normality and profitability, putting even more pressure on managers and salespeople to produce. And the stakes are higher than ever. “Produce, or there will be more furloughs and layoffs.”
Unfortunately, in this fear-based obsession to drive results fast, most senior leaders are focusing on quantity over quality of output, and are directing and telling (“Coaching? Forget it. What’s that?”) their managers toget more done faster.
These are the very things that were virtually (no pun intended) ineffective prior to this pandemic, which now incurs a heavier price tag, costing billions in lost sales.
Intellectually, we know that there’s no one action, thought or strategy that will instantly reinvent your company, career, or move your productivity level and sales tank from empty to full. But there is ONE thing that you can do to start creating the success you want…
Embrace the one-degree mentality.
That is, one consistent, proven action at a time, compounded over time, is the only way to create extreme, long-term, positive change.
While this may be painfully obvious to many, the fact is, most companies don’t adhere to this way of thinking because of the self-imposed pressure, and the result-obsessed, metrics-driven culture they’ve created, preventing you from adopting this alternative and infinitely more productive and healthy mindset.
A Global Epidemic – The Result Driven Culture
Every organization suffers from being painfully and obsessively driven by metrics, scorecards, commitments and fast results. Unfortunately, when every organization, manager and salesperson has a target on their back, it’s practically impossible not to fall victim to this result-driven mindset.
The good news is, you can shift your mental scale to become a more of a balanced, process-driven thinker. Otherwise, it will be impossible to coach your team, and win more business, regardless of your positive intentions.
Because, when it comes to high impact selling and coaching, you don’t coach the result. You coach the process; the who, the how the why. This produces the result as a natural byproduct. To quickly assess if you and your managers are effectively coaching, consider this:
If managers think they don’t have time to coach, it’s because they’ve never coached nor are coaching today. Coaching happens in every conversation. That’s why coaching is simply the language of leadership. So, learn to speak and think, “Coach.”
Become a Process-Driven Thinker
We all feel the pressure to generate results. Paradoxically, what if the source of lost sales, stress, ineffective collaboration, toxic coaching, and missed sales targets is focusing too much on the RESULT and not on your PROCESS (the steps, the who, the how, the messaging)?
The finish line isn’t where the race begins.
Besides, focusing on the result doesn’t make the result manifest any faster and it’s certainly not honoring the One Degree Mindset. In fact, it’s the very thing that will sabotage the results you want most! And doing more of the wrong things faster will continue to push you further away from your goals.
Managers, if you think reminding your team about their goals, productivity, and results push them any harder, is motivating or makes them any more accountable, it does not. What you’re doing is just ANNOYING, and probably the very thing your manager is doing to you!
As a result-driven thinker, the real cost of staying focused on the future is that life happens in the now. The process also lives and is deployed in the present. The present moment is also where your patience lives.
So if you’re feeling impatient, frustrated or stressed, you’re pushing for something to happen, rather than letting it unfold naturally. Stop living in the future. Get present – it’s the only place where the process lives and where your impact is made one degree at a time. It’s also where your life happens.
Rethink Radical Change
We assume that in order to generate massive results, it requires massive change.
Not true. Remember the Atlanta storm.
This is an example of a catastrophic change that was resulted from a one-degree change in temperature. Extreme amounts of change at any time, while desperately needed, will only confuse, distract, and erode your efforts, and culture.
Instead, long term change starts with just one degree; one action, one improvement, one thought, one conversation, one refinement, compounded consistently over time.
You may be familiar with the concept of, “One degree of separation,” a measure of social distance between people. You are one degree away from everyone you know, two degrees away from everyone they know, and so on, growing exponentially, which leads to the sixth degree of separation between us and knowing every other person on this planet.
If one degree can connect all of us, imagine the impact that one degree of change can have on you, your life, your customers, and your career?
Every activity you engage in, while seemingly insignificant in the moment will compound over time. That’s why regardless of what you do, do it to your very best of your abilities, or don’t do it at all.
What’s Your One Degree Moment?
What’s the ONE thing you can do in every area of your business and life that, compounded over time, will enable you to achieve what matters most to you?
Before you end your day, what would be possible if you moved the needle of these activities just one degree? And what would be the cost to you if you don’t?
- One more cold call
- One more touch point to reconnect with your customers
- One more qualifying question during a prospecting conversation
- One more attempt to connect with a prospect
- One correction in your golf swing
- One more coaching question
- One more call to reconnect with the people you care about
- One more hour with your family
- One more thing to be grateful for
- One more exercise/walk outside
- One more random act of kindness
Every time you say to yourself, “I’ll do it tomorrow,” creates the opportunity to do one more thing in the moment to make your tomorrow even better than it was today.
(Creating a daily routine is the best way to manage your goals, daily activities, and priorities, while designing your career around your life to achieve your most important goals.)
One Degree From Success
As you focus on the finish line you want to cross to achieve your goals, realize your next big win today, in every area of your life, can be just one degree away.