"80 percent of life is just showing up." Many of us have heard at least one iteration of this famous Woody Allen quote. But have you ever considered its meaning? Are these famous words relevant to the modern B2B sales professional?
Yes. And more than ever before.
I know what you're thinking. "But, Brittany, it's been nearly 40 years since those words were spoken. In that time, the world as we know it has been revolutionized by advancing technology, globalization, the emergence of the Internet and more!" And you're right to point it out. The world has changed, significantly, creating a whole new reality of what it takes to be a successful salesperson in the 21st century.
That's why this iconic quote needs a little enhancement. So, in the remainder of this blog post, I'll ask you to instead consider:
"80 percent of life is just showing up. [The rest is what you do when you get there]."
Let's break it down.
Showing Up - the 80 Percent
More and more, people today simply don't "show up," whether mentally, physically or both. Well-intended sales professionals - in the face of lots to do and not enough time to do it - find their efforts and attention pulled in various directions. Focus on any one thing is challenged. Ironically, with higher quotas and less time to hit them, it's common to find ourselves sitting in front of a computer thinking the answer lies in more emails and RFP responses. But that won't get you to the next level.
Those of us with the desire and discipline to do things differently, to truly "show up," can distance ourselves from the competition. So, where to begin? Let's consider "showing up" in the context of two distinct areas.
The Power of Presence
Get your head in the game. Your mental presence equates to a desire to take full advantage of the opportunities put in front of you, large or small. This establishes the foundation for success.
As my colleague Amy Franko discussed in her previous post about mindset, it begins with a morning routine and setting priorities. Consider the way you spend the first hour of your workday. Do you:
- Take some time to settle in - catching up on the latest in the news/on social over coffee, reading and responding to whatever emails have come in, etc. - eventually checking to see what's on your calendar for the day
- Jump right in with your plan of attack, having already familiarized yourself with the day's schedule & established key priorities the night before
- Fall somewhere in between, depending on the day?
What about your mental approach to selling? When trying to reach a decision maker, for example - do you shoot off an email and hope for the best? Or do you actually pick up the phone? "Showing up" mentally means getting outside our comfort zones and selecting the course of action with the highest probability of success.
In a day and age where numerous people and issues are vying for our attention at any given time, dedicating our full focus to just one is rare. Think webinar participation or conference calls, for example. Is anyone else guilty of intending to pay full attention, then seeing an email notification pop up and getting caught up in their inbox for the next 30 minutes? Multi-tasking doesn't work. No matter what's on your plate, avoiding distraction to be fully present will create better results.
Not surprisingly, sometimes "showing up" means actually showing up.
Just recently, my company was invited to make a presentation for a sizeable new business opportunity, along with a four other competitors. Given the nature of our business and the importance of this potential opportunity, we pushed to show up and present our value in-person, instead of over the web. We were the only ones to do so.
Whether it's because of busyness, laziness, fear, or a myriad of other factors, most people don't show up anymore. Those of you who do are ahead of the game. While it may not always make sense (due to budget, logistics, etc.), the fact is we can often create a stronger, more distinct impression when we show up, helping to increase our effectiveness.
The Other 20 Percent
Now that we're mentally and physically present, it's time to step it up and stand out. But what does excellence really look like? I've identified three areas we should be pushing ourselves above and beyond.
Research Meeting Preparation in 3 Steps
Everyone knows we should prepare for every sales call. Yet most don't! Despite good intentions, life happens. We get busy; things come up. Before you know it, we're walking into a discovery meeting having done zero preparation.
It doesn't have to be time consuming. In fact, good preparation can be done in as little as 5-10 minutes. When preparing for your call, focus on three simple steps:
- Hit the person's LinkedIn profile. Aim to gather a brief background on the individual you'll be speaking to.
- Visit the company's website or company LinkedIn page (or both). The goal is to become familiar with enough about their business to do step #3.
- Develop 3-4 good questions to guide the flow of your call. What are the key things you want to learn? Having this purpose in mind will help you make the best use of your time.
Presentation Focus: It's All About Them
After years of learning the hard way, developing more effective sales presentations is a topic near and dear to my heart. At the most basic level, so many sales professionals deliver the same corporate pitch over and over again (they're showing up - it's the 80 percent). Yet how many decision makers are compelled by these corporate presentations all about us and our products and services? Not many.
Customize each sales presentation to be relevant for that specific customer. Go above and beyond; consider your audience and tailor your content to incorporate what matters to them and their business. That's where you become compelling; that's the 20 percent.
Practice Makes Perfect
I recently facilitated a training session with a diverse group of sales professionals. Some people in the group clearly put in rehearsal effort and delivered great presentations; others did not. If a lack of rehearsal was glaringly obvious to everyone participating in a simple exercise, imagine how clear it'd be to a customer in the real world?
Rehearsal is key, and there are a few ways we can do it better:
- In- role and out loud. You never truly know what you're going to say until you say it. Avoid the temptation to simply flick through slides while reviewing talking points in your head. Instead, rehearse your presentation out loud as if you were in front of the customer.
- With others or on camera. Trust me, I know how uncomfortable it can be to make yourself vulnerable to others (or even tougher, yourself). None of us particularly enjoys facing our own weaknesses or insecurities. But, do you really want the first run of your presentation to be when you're live with the customer? Once you're able to get past the initial discomfort, you'll benefit from both feedback and confidence that will ultimately help you make a better presentation.
- Follow the 4:1:4 ratio. For every one time you rehearse the presentation in full, practice the beginning and the end four more times. It sounds like overkill, but following this ratio will help you nail the two most important parts of your presentation - a strong open and compelling close.
Let's close the book on this topic. As sales professionals, we have great jobs, and the majority of us do them well. We know the importance of not just showing up (the 80 percent), but getting ahead by delivering that extra 20 percent. To help you put intention into practice, consider implementing the following challenge action items.
Challenge: Show Up Strong
- For the next month, dedicate 5-10 minutes preparing before every single call.
- For your next two presentations, rehearse in-role, out loud. Get some feedback on it from someone else, and focus on really nailing the opening and the close. Afterwards, do a little self-reflection to see if your hard work improved your outcome.
- Stretch your comfort zones by trying something new. For example, if you prefer to schedule appointments via email, challenge yourself to pick up the phone (or use LinkedIn). If you always have calls remotely, schedule a face-to-face.
You get the idea. Challenging ourselves to get outside our comfort zones creates excellence. The 20 percent.
This article is the third in a series of six on "6 Strategies to Maximize Sales Results." The first focused on Growth Mindset, and the second addressed Intellectual Curiosity. Watch for the next one soon. The series is a collaboration among Amy Franko (Impact Instruction Group), Brittany Shonka (IMPAX) and Jen E Miller (Marsh & McLennan Agency)--to create a resource to help other sales professionals maximize results. The goal is to help you go farther, achieve sales success, and transform into top performers.