Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The Finalist Meetings

I'm in the process of preparing for two finalist meetings. Very different proposals, very different organizations. There's a lot to do, and a lot that needs to come together very quickly. And, frankly, there's a lot riding on it. Wins are hard to come by right now.

I've been asked how I handle the pressure of a sales role, with its dramatic ups and downs.

To me, sales is essentially about trust. You can make promises, but the client has to decide if they trust you, your team, your organization, to deliver those promises. That trust is built in every interaction you have. In my field, that could be years. And it can fall apart with one statement, or one misunderstood email.

You also have to have the right product. I could promise to deliver you the best VHS recorder ever made, but somehow I doubt you'll buy it.

The product is an organizational thing. Trust is a personal one. And I have more control over one than the other.

That, to me, is the biggest challenge with sales. The fact that so much of what I make is based on the product, and yet I have so little control over it.

But as I look at the rest of my life, I can see that this is always true. I'd like to think that what I make, how I do in the world is in some sense related to merit, to things that I have control over. That if I work hard I will make money and have success in the traditional way of measuring those things. And over time, I guess that's been true.

But for me and for many of my friends, so much seems like luck, good or bad. Maybe you land the big account and get paid handsomely for it. Maybe you lose a client, or maybe you even lose your job. So much of the time, events seem unrelated to effort or skill or even trust. (And in the purest sense, many of the talents and other qualities that we are born with our without are the biggest example of pure luck that I can think of.)

I'm left with doing my best, because that's really the only thing I have any control over. Whether I'm in sales or not.


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