While perfectionism can be a useful trait, it can hinder your progress when closing sales. Learn how to work with your perfectionism instead of against it.
Paul, one of my clients was involved in a terrible car accident that almost left him paralyzed. Being an eternal optimist and a student of possibility, Paul persevered. He didn’t listen to the nay-sayers and to the doctors when they told him he may never be able to walk. He tapped into his internal strength and refused to surrender.
After several lengthy surgeries, the addition of a titanium rod in his leg, countless months in rehab, and a relentless drive to overcome the odds against him, Paul regained his ability to walk; something that his doctors told him may never happen again.
Paul turned what could have been a tragedy into a new career for himself, becoming a well-known motivational speaker.
Now, for those of you who are wondering how one goes about becoming a motivational speaker, it’s pretty much the same as developing any other business. You need to develop your product and brand, presentation, sales strategy, business plan and marketing campaign.
It was about the fourth month we were working together that Paul was ready to start marketing his services. He had his first presentation or seminar developed. We worked together on finalizing his sales and marketing strategy. Paul was ready to hit the streets and start bringing in new clients.
At least I thought he was. He was ready, I knew he was ready and Paul verbally admitted he was ready from an organizational standpoint. However, there was a disconnect between the things Paul developed that were ready for launching his business and him actually feeling ready to go out and close his first sale.
Recognizing Red Flags Head On
There was something else going on in Paul’s mind that prevented him from putting himself out there in the marketplace.
“Keith, I’m almost ready. I’m just not ready yet. You see, I still have to get my business cards done.”
One week later here’s what I heard from Paul. “Keith I’m still not ready yet. I also need to complete my website. And then, there’s my presentation that I need to tweak a little bit. Once that’s done, I’ll be ready. Oh, I mean after I finish the PowerPoint presentation. And I still have to get that professional photo taken and…”
Just when I thought Paul exhausted all the possible excuses that were preventing him from taking action, he came up with one last one. (Actually, it was the last one I allowed him to come up with, before calling him out on all of these diversionary tactics he created for himself that justified his avoidance of taking action and selling.)
It was during coaching call when Paul would typically inform me about his achievements throughout the prior week.
Paul was telling me about how much progress he’s made with identifying his initial round of companies to target who would be a perfect fit for his services.
“That’s wonderful,” I exclaimed, happy to hear that he had identified the companies to begin calling on. “So, what day this week do you want to commit to calling on these companies?” I asked.
“Well,” Paul began reluctantly, “Here’s the thing. I need to do a little more research on these companies before I start calling on them.
Paul was clearly wearing his perfectionism on his sleeve. I inquired, “Okay Paul, so tell me, exactly when will you be ready?”
“Well” Paul began. I sensed he was about to come up with a laundry list. I stopped him before he got on a roll.
“Paul, lets look at this through a different set of lenses for a second, okay? What if you were ready, right now, today? After all, you shared with me that you have essentially everything you need to launch your company and start selling and most important you have your heart, your passion and your drive to share your story and inspire others.”
“Yes, but well, it’s still not completely finished.”
“So, when you say, completely finished, is it possible that what you really mean is completely perfect?”
Silence. A few minutes later, Paul reluctantly agreed with me.
Diagnosing and Treating Perfectionism
Paul suffered from a clear case of perfectionism. And while this is a very elusive diversion we use to often keep us from taking action, Paul felt that in order for him to be ready, he had to have everything perfect, including himself.
Believing that you are “almost ready” is the same as saying “I almost made that sale.” Neither pay the bills.
So, when researching the companies he wanted to call on, it only made sense that Paul became a knowledge junkie, believing that if he could get everything perfect and learn everything he needs to know about public speaking and about his prospects (which of course, could never actually be achieved), he would then be ready to go out and sell. (Thankfully, we caught this early enough before he even tackled the thought of developing the “perfect close.”)
After discussing the consequences of his actions (or lack there of) Paul soon realized that it is who he is and his experience he could share that is the greatest gift he could give to his audience.
Besides, if you strive for perfectionism, and there’s truly no such thing as being perfect, then what kind of disconnect do you think you would create between you and every prospect you speak with? (You being perfect and everyone else being well, a mere mortal?)
Here are five questions to see if there’s any perfectionism in you we can expose.
1. Is there a fairly long list of people who have disappointed you throughout your life or career? How well do people line up to meeting your expectations you have of them? (And what’s that about?)
2. After completing an assignment or project, such as a proposal, writing an article or a newsletter, how much additional time do you take to make sure it’s, how do you say; “Ready.”
3. Are you satisfied in each area of your life?
4. When completing a project, task or goal, or when you make a substantial sale, is that sense of achievement fleeting or long lasting? (When is enough, actually enough?) Realize you don’t have to choose between feeling fulfilled and satisfied and wanting to achieve bigger goals. You can actually have both; fulfillment in your life and in your career today while enjoying the pursuit of lifelong learning, continued development and meaningful, value-driven goals.
5. Do you find yourself often building evidence to support your case, make yourself right or prove your point? Are you rarely, “wrong?”
Paul welcomed himself back to the human race and soon found out that it was the vulnerability he experienced from the accident which people connected with and made him human. Paul continues to inspire people around the world to this day.
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.
Photo credit: Matt Cavanagh