Master the Basics

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A client I had worked with about a year ago recently emailed me, requesting some time to talk. When we finally got on the phone together, it was apparent why.

8-Steps to Creating a Coaching Culture by Keith RosenMiki was a seasoned executive recruiter. She hired me initially because her sales were down and thought a coach might be able to give her the extra guidance and motivation she needed to get out of this slump. (She was right.)

After three months of coaching, Miki was back on top, the top fifth recruiter out of about 200.

Well, recently it seems as if Miki’s numbers were sliding again and instead of waiting, she immediately reached out for help.

“Keith, I don’t know what’s going on. I mean, I know we haven’t worked together in about a year and for a while I was doing great! But for some reason, I’m feeling stuck again.”

“I’m glad you reached out as soon as you noticed that something was off. Lets do a quick diagnostic and see how things are running.”


“So, if you were standing on a 100 foot balcony looking down onto your entire sales process, where do you feel the breakdown is occurring; when attempting to get the appointment, when presenting, closing, or following up?”

“Well, I’m using your template for cold calling and that continually works great so the leads are pretty consistent. And the presentation seems to go just fine. So, I guess closing the sale is where I’m stumbling. If I were to look at what’s taking up my time now, I have a handful of proposals out there waiting to be closed. And the prospects I’m meeting with are just not closing; for whatever reason or excuse they give me. The proposal stage and their decision making process seems to drag on indefinitely.”

“So, you’re getting in front of the right people, you feel that your presentation flows well and that you are doing a good job establishing a rapport and relationship with your prospects. However, you feel that these prospects should be able to make their decision faster as it relates to buying from you or not, is that what I’m hearing?”

“Yes, Keith, that’s right.”

“Miki, in the spirit of exploring every possibility and not to step over anything, are you still using the sales process that we put together?”

“Oh yes, of course!”

“You are. Good. Then lets take a quick look at a few things you’re currently doing. Miki, do you remember when we developed your pre-closing and reconfirmation approach to include at the end of your presentation?”

“Um, yes.”

“Are you still asking those five pre-qualifying questions before you discuss your pricing? You know, those questions that ensure you’ve addressed every concern they have, while confirming that your service is something they can clearly benefit from?

Silence. Then, Miki responded quietly with, “Hmm. No, I forgot about those.”

“Well that’s good news! At least we’ve uncovered one critical step in your process that you’re not currently doing which has proven to be very effective. Once you start asking these questions again, you will notice a big difference in your performance. In addition, you won’t be wasting your time drafting proposals and following up with unqualified prospects who you shouldn’t be following up with in the first place.

And what about the questions we developed to defuse the objections you hear? I know that you were running into the “send me a proposal” and the “I have to talk this over with my board” and the infamous “that’s a lot of money” objection. The rebuttals we developed were squashing and preventing these objections consistently, remember?”

“Yes, I most certainly do remember, Keith. I especially remember that when I used them, these objections weren’t getting in my way! The problem is I totally forget about those rebuttals as well! How weird is that?”

We ended our call a few minutes later after I coached Miki and her memory on what she needed to reconnect with in her selling approach. Not surprisingly, she emailed me a week later about a few sales she was able to close as a result of doing what she needed to do again; the basics. Miki got back to the basics of what made her successful.

Interestingly, while I identified certain things that Miki clearly needed to change for the better, it was nothing she hasn’t tried, created or done successfully before. Her real enemies were success, complacency and time.

Whether we’re in a slump or selling like a pro, when something is always going on we become blind to it. That includes becoming complacent or often blind to the good things in our life as well as the bad. Of course, this does not exclude the productive behavior and actions we take in addition to the unproductive ones. We sometimes forget what has worked for us, what has specifically contributed to our success; the things that have become habitual. And when something becomes a habit, it’s now working in the background of our lives, being done without conscious attention. We no longer have to think about doing them. Therein lies the danger.

Elusive Diversionary Tactic

If you continually forget everything you’ve learned, then you can always claim that you have adopted and utilized what you’ve learned. And if you continually feel that you’re using everything you’ve read, heard or seen and nothing is working, what a wonderful opportunity to look outside yourself and blame your poor performance on everything except you. After all, you’ve tried and done everything, right? In your mind you have the validation to support such a claim, which is really an excuse in disguise. So, if you forget about it, then you are always right (and never accountable). Get it?

When coaching someone out of a slump who has all of the right components to succeed, most of the time it’s the basics which have been ignored or forgotten that contributed to the breakdown. The basic questions we ask, the presentation we deliver, the process we’ve developed that has successfully worked time and time again. Some how, some way, we get sidetracked, distracted or seduced by something we perceive to be better (or worse), like a new selling strategy or approach, status quo, even our attitude. Consequently, we mistakenly change what was clearly identified as an approach or mindset that was working well.

The next time you experience a selling slump or you feel that sales aren’t coming to you as easily has they once did, go back to the basics. Instead of doubting yourself and your abilities, see what you need to be reminded to do consistently again in your selling approach. Look at the engine that drives your sales. You may notice that the only thing needed may be a quick tune up to enhance your performance. It’s all in your control.

Excerpt from The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Closing the Sale by Keith Rosen. Reprinted with permission by Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc. Release Date, January, 2007. 

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