In last week’s blog post, we used five quotes from transcendentalists as inspiration for thoughts on how to become a true sales leader in the face of certain challenges. Today, we take a look at five more quotes from some of the 19th century’s most provocative thinkers in an effort to dig even deeper into the subject of what it takes to overcome difficulties and surpass expectations in the competitive—and often cutthroat—field of sales. We left off last week at transcendentalist quote number five. Today, we start with quote number six.
6. “I am not afraid of storms, for I am learning to sail my ship.” –Louisa May Alcott
Ted Turner, the original founder of CNN, suffered major professional and personal blows due to the failed AOL-Time Warner merger. In an episode of Oprah’s Master Class, Turner describes what went on behind the scenes of what he calls “one of the worst mistakes that’s ever been made in business.” He says, “We went into it [the merger] half-cocked and unprepared, and that-that’s something you don’t want to do on a merger of that consequence. You know, you want to really be careful when you’re dealing with billions and billions of dollars and the careers of literally thousands of people that were—you know, their life savings was wiped out, too.” He explains that he had doubts about the merger, but went along with it because he felt he couldn’t stop it. As a result, he lost 80 percent of his money and his job at CNN. On top of things, he got a divorce (from Jane Fonda) and lost a grandchild around the same time. He goes on to saythat he could have gone down, but didn’t. He says, “I still felt like I had, uh, contributions to make, and, um, I just gritted my teeth and said, ‘I’m gonna come out of this.’”
Don’t let a fear of making mistakes stop you from taking calculated risks, or allow past mistakes dictate your tomorrow. Mistakes, as any good leader is apt to tell you, are the things that will teach you how to sail your ship—if you let them. You can either let your mistakes drag you down, or you can learn from them and rise up to sell another day. The thing to remember is that the choice is up to you.
7. “It is very sad for a man to make himself servant to a single thing; his manhood all taken out of him by the hydraulic pressure of excessive business.” –Theodore Parker
Anyone can get so mired in daily operations, or, as Parker might put it, “excessive business,” that they forget the things that motivated them to go into business in the first place. Like the architect who gets so caught up in the details of the execution of his design that he compromises his vision, or the painter who becomes so involved in her process that she forgets what it is that inspired her to paint in the first place, sales leaders or would-be sales leaders can easily become so overwhelmed with meeting everyday obligations and hitting certain markers that they lose sight of the big picture.
Things like execution and processes matter, but if you’re a sales professional who’s met any level of success, you know that the real key to success lies in building meaningful relationships with others—not in toiling over spreadsheets and PowerPoint presentations or in managing a customer relationship management tool, however necessary doing those things might be to your organization.
If you feel you have become a “servant to a single thing,” you may need to do more delegating, outsource certain sales tasks to a qualified third party, or make other changes to your internal processes that will enable you to dedicate more time to the things that enrich you. You can’t fill up the cups of others—whether they’re internal or external customers—if your pitcher is empty. To avoid becoming a “servant to a single thing,” sometimes you have to let somethinggo.
8. “If you have knowledge, let others light their candles in it.” –Margaret Fuller
Are you currently sharing knowledge and information with your prospects, clients, colleagues, and employees regularly and effectively? What do you need to do to educate the audiences within your reach in a way that will help all parties succeed?
To educate prospects, do you need to engage in more inbound and outbound sales and marketing? To educate clients, should you be sending out regular e-newsletters and e-blasts containing important product information, new offerings, or important industry information? What could you be doing to better educate your employees? At Vendere Partners, we established Vendere University in order to develop our employees into successful sales professionals. Do you need a better sales training program in order to help your employees succeed?
Sharing knowledge and information in a busy work environment can be a challenge, but not doing it can present even greater challenges down the road. Prioritize your knowledge and information sharing goals, develop plans, and implement them as needs dictate and budgets allow.
9. “Success is sweet: the sweeter is long delayed and attained through manifold struggles and defeats.” –Amos Bronson Alcott
After the AOL-Time Warner merger debacle, Ted Turner went on to make his chief goal to save the world. He is now a successful philanthropist. In the same Oprah’s Master Class episode mentioned earlier in this post, Turner says, “If you’re working to help others or make the world better, you’ll be a lot happier than if all you’re doing is trying to make things better for yourself.” He continues, “You know, if you’re a selfish person—I think selfish people are not as happy as generous people, for instance, because the real greatest joy and satisfaction of all, I think, is-is helping others.”
You don’t have to be a wealthy philanthropist to help others. You can choose to engage in socially and environmentally responsible efforts through your company, or simply to serve your prospects, clients, and employees better by providing better information, service, and incentives. Successful leaders lead others to success.Whether you’ve suffered a major or minor professional setback or career blow, or simply want to learn to be a better leader, helping others succeed and achieve is probably the best way to pull yourself out of the mire and muck, sales doldrums, or even an economic recession, and make the most out of what it is you have to offer as an individual.
10. “Truth is so rare that it is delightful to see it.” –Emily Dickinson
People respond to the truth. What is your truth?
One way to define your truth, whether it’s for yourself or for your company, is to develop meaningful and accessible vision, mission, and values statements. Whether you’re a business owner whose already established your company’s vision, mission, and values, or a sales representative who’s still defining what it is that is really important to you as an individual, it can be worthwhile to regularly revisit or consider your thoughts on what you envision for yourself and those around you. Where do you see yourself or your company in five years? Ten years? What are your short and long-term goals? What do you plan to achieve? What are the ideals you hold dear? Put your thoughts on paper, and then place them where they will be seen.
One of the greatest challenges you may face after you create your vision, mission, and values statements is integrating them into your company culture. To matter, your statements not only have to ring true, but do more than take up space on a break room or cubicle wall. The good news is that if you can do that—create a culture based on what truly matters to you—you can probably do just about anything you set your mind to do.