In the movie Wall Street, there is a scene where Hal Holbrook’s character tells Charlie Sheen’s character, “There comes a time in every man’s life when a man looks in the abyss, there’s nothing staring back at him. At that moment, man finds his character. And that is what keeps him out of the abyss.”
I love that quote because I think it is so honest and true. There does come not just a time, but often many times, in a salesperson’s life where there is nothing but the abyss.
You stare into it, looking harder and harder but you see no light, no north star… nothing to guide you. Your deals are stuck. Buyers are throwing objection after objection after objection at you. You can’t seem to get them to move forward. No one is taking your calls to start new deals. And the worst deals you thought you had closed all of a sudden start to fall apart.
You… are… lost.
And based on conversations I’ve had with numerous salespeople that have attended our social sales training programs or webinars, I think a lot of salespeople find themselves feeling a little lost now and again, and work really hard to quickly find their character.
Surviving When You’re Lost
The interesting thing is that if you check out survival skill books, they tell you the first thing you should do when you’re you’re lost is stop. Sit down. Find cover from the elements and wait to be found.
This makes sense. You don’t know where you are. You have no idea how to get back to where you’re supposed to be. And your best hope of being rescued is that someone who knows where you started and where you planned to go, can triangulate where you might be now and find you. But if you keep moving, you make their job harder.
The only thing is, if you’re a salesperson that is lost, that’s pretty much a recipe for disaster. Because in a world where your competitor is just a thumb click away from today’s self-educating buyer, that doesn’t care enough to work to find you, standing still or maintaining the status quo is tantamount to a death sentence.
In fact, truth be told, your competitors would just as well you stay lost. Sure your loyal customers will miss you, maybe even yearn for you, but that too shall pass. They’ll find new lovers… they always do.
Getting Unlost vs Being Found
So what’s a salesperson that is lost to do?
Quite simply – start by getting unlost. There’s a big difference between being found and becoming unlost. Found means you’ve finished your journey. Everything is back to normal and life goes on with everyone sighing a breath of relief.
Getting unlost just means you successfully find your bearings again. You figure out where you are more or less, contrast that with where you want to be, and based on the delta, make a plan to start closing that gap one step at a time.
And that is truly the important point here today — one of the key ideas I share in almost every social selling keynote or workshop I deliver is that so often the pathway to success is to stop, orient, and then just put one foot in front of the other until you successfully make it back home.
So with that, here are my suggestions and steps to help salespeople get unlost:
- Stop feeling like you don’t have control of the situation. Sure there may be outside forces at work like bosses, colleagues, competitors or the economy. Forces you may or may not be able to effect or control. But as my favorite post-Hurricane Katrina t-shirt said, “Put your big girl panties on and get over it.”
- Take stock in yourself or your company. Don’t get caught in analysis paralysis, but do make note of the things you can build off of and what you can’t. Then focus on the stuff you can build on and get to work.
- Move. Have you ever watched the firefight scenes in a war movie? The commanders are always saying the same thing when the bullets start flying… MOVE! Motion is life. Motion is hope. Motion means you are affecting your future. You are changing a variable in the equation and that one change might just save your life or at least your ass.
- Pick the thing that takes the least effort but will have the maximum effect. Notice I’m not saying the biggest effect. I’m saying pick the thing that requires the least effort yet yields the most effect – play the spread. Why? Because you aren’t trying to fix the whole situation, you’re just trying to fix one part of it. You’re trying to create a win. The human psyche needs wins to continue to exist, to survive and to thrive. So pick a deal, a project, or a prospect you can win or at least move forward. Even if it’s not a new contract, even if it’s just securing a meeting with the right people. Go win something.
- Repeat steps 3 & 4 until you see something staring back at you.
But once you start to see something there in the abyss, don’t stop what you’re doing. Keep moving. While true that thing you see may be a train hurtling at you, at least you’ll see what’s going to kill you versus getting blindsided. And I’m hoping most of you are agile enough to jump off the track in time.
So there is my two cents. What do you do when you face the abyss? How do you overcome that feeling that you just don’t have the answer? How do you get unlost?
Let me know in the comments.