Read the Road Signs

Wrong Way Sign

Life being me is an adventure!

Case in point: My casual 5 mile run this afternoon that turned into a half-marathon...

I put the boys down for a nap and mapped out on Google a quick 5 mile circuit around my house that would enable me to burn some steam and think about the upcoming $ale$ challenges of the week ahead.   Somehow it all went wrong.

I started running at a good pace with a bottle of water and an iPod full of motivation, and I made the first few major turns successfully.  I usually drive that part of the route so I had a senses of where I was going.  Somewhere in the last 2/3 of the "pavement pounding", I lost my way -- in a pretty major way.

My 5.3 Mile Planned Route
My 5.3 Mile Planned Route

I had my eyes on the road and completely ran past the road sign that would have put me on the path to the finish line (my house).  Instead I ran unknowingly past the sign and ended up in the next town -- LITERALLY!

Here's the kicker: Even though I kind of thought I was lost, I kept running thinking that "everything would end up OK in the end" that I would find the road I was looking for.  I didn't find my road, of course, because I had ignored it the first time around.   I had left it miles behind me.  Frankly, I wasn't even close.   I was in a different town.  Let me repeat -- A DIFFERENT TOWN...

I went left, and then I went right FOR MILES, and then I retraced my steps back to a gas station to look at a map.  When the store owners told me that they did not speak English, I went next door to a Papa John's where some sharp delivery dudes told me that my street was back a few miles (Thanks, dudes).

Sure enough.  I ran back, found my street, continued my loop home and hit the finish line (the shower) about 45 minutes later.

The 12.1 Mile Unplanned Route
The 12.1 Mile Unplanned Route

My experience is lot like many of the entrepreneurs and sales executives I get to speak with on a daily basis.  They fail to read the road signs and end up at the finish line blistered, sore, and limping.  Sometimes they give up and don't even make it home -- the race is an utter failure.

Like in running, sales is about reading the road signs!  I was speaking last week at Enterprise Launch about the fact that for a start-up there is NOTHING ever more important that generating revenue.   We talked for several hours about some great ways to land sales -- even for owners who consider themselves not to be sales guys.  Generating MA$$IVE amounts of revenue can be done successfully and the process is A LOT easier when you are watching the signs -- your customer , their needs, and "WHY" they are motivated to buy your widget.

I am sure you have been in a sales pitch where the dude just droned on and on and on and on, and you wanted to find a plastic fork to shove in your eyeball so it would all be over.  That might even have been you at some time giving the presentation.  I can remember some presentations I gave that were absolutely "amateur hour".  It happens and it's absolutely painful to see (even more painful to BE).

So the lesson I leave you with is this: WATCH THE SIGNS!

That means that when a customer tries to lie to you lead you with "time tested" buyer intelligence like:

  • Your prices are really high.... OR
  • I need this all delivered tomorrow morning or else the deal is off.... OR
  • Your competitor told me that they could this better.... OR
  • I really need to see all this in writing so I can think about it...

(or a million other excuses)

When that happens (and it will if you are in business for more than 15 minutes) that you stop looking at your road (your sales pitch) and you follow the signs to get the buyer's real motivation.  Need help doing this?  I have 5 magic words to help you "read the signs"...

Try this regardless of what the customer is telling you.

  1. Hear what the customer is saying...  (No need to listen too hard as most of what is being said is completely predictable)
  2. Pause...  (1001, 1002, 1003)
  3. Ask your customer the following: What makes you say that?
  4. Listen as the customer points you down the right road...

You can do this.  It works!  And it's heck of a lot better then the blisters you'll get from running down a million side roads hoping it will "end up OK in the end"....

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