As the 2010 Winter Olympic games came to a close I am haunted by a certain story which involves snowboarder Lindsay Jacobellis and her failed attempt at redemption. Jacobellis suffered a disastrous crash four years ago at the Turin, Italy winter Olympic games when she celebrated too soon just moments from the finish line. She basically had the race won but could not resist the temptation at showing a little flash at the wrong moment and instead lost the race.
The reason this failure stuck with me far more than all the Olympic victories i witnessed is probably because as a sales coach I see this phenomena far more than I would like when trying to help sales people attain better results. The pain of losing is vivid to me whenever I hear the sales person tell me that they have a sale that is “pretty much already sold” and then they start talking about it like they actually have closed it. But here is the twist. After I question further I find that they aren’t even close to getting the sale.
Do You Over-Celebrate?
So many sales people are guilty of the same Olympic sized mistake that Lindsay Jacobellis made four year ago that it boggles the mind. Here are a few statements from the lips of sales people who celebrate before actually getting the job.
- “This one is basically sold, I’m just waiting for them to transfer the money.”
- “It’s pretty much done, I just have to provide them some more literature.”
- “He really liked the proposal, now the board has to approve it.”
- “I’m gonna be selling this one on Tuesday after they have a chance to talk.”
In all of those statements, the sales person is mistaking making the assumption that the sale is theirs. All they have to do is one more thing. The question is begging to be asked, “Why did you not stay there and do that one more thing?” I really don’t know why sales people delude themselves like this. To me they are setting up the situation to unravel at the end and not only lose the sale but also a great measure of their self-esteem as well.
You Work Too Hard To Not Finish
Just like Olympic athletes, we as sales people have traveled a long way to get close to the finish line. It is an utter disgrace to do all the work, spend all the resources and sacrifice your time only to not finish what you have started. Remember that the sale is not won until you have a signed contract and all financial considerations have been executed.
As a sales manager simply ask your sales person a few questions the next time you hear them celebrate before the cross the finish line. Here are a few questions to ask:
- “Do you have the signed agreement.”
- “Did we get a down payment?”
- “Can I see your presentation of the solutions?”
Most of the early celebrations will be doused with a healthy dose of realism once you ask them one of these question. Remember that it is your job as a sales manager to keep your team grounded, focused and on-track to succeed. You are NOT doing anyone any favors by sharing in their enthusiasm of this very dysfunctional moment.
Winning Is Guaranteed To No One
The final lesson that is learned from the Olympic nightmare that Jacobellis suffered is that even if you do get a second chance at success, winning is promised to no one. It is you that must keep your poise as you are just about to win and make sure that all of you work is finished before you start to tell people that you have won.
In the end, the rewards are clear. Real champions “cross the finish line” before they start to even think about celebrating their success. In fact, I would say that the best people in sales never really celebrate at all. Why? Because after they win a sale they are already thinking about the next one. In sales, the celebration of success and failure must be done evenly. That means that when you lose, you should not be devastated and when you win you must not be too elated as well. Remember that in the sales world, there is always another race to run tomorrow.