It was the summer of 1992. I was driving a casual 110 mph on the German autobahn for a 3-hour stretch in my company-issued BMW 3 series. I was on my way from Munich to Aachen, Germany to meet with a prospective client in anticipation of landing one of the largest clients in my vast 4-year sales career. I was 29 years old and the sales manager of a small German technology distributor. My German language finally reached a level of business fluency well enough to persuade any client to buy our products and services.
Several years ago, when I was ramping up my consulting business and I was feeling the pressure of putting food on the table for my family, I received some sage advice that changed the trajectory of my business.
Up until that time, new clients seemed to only trickle in. I looked at every opportunity as a must-win situation to pay our mortgage. The stress and test of my patience only made it more difficult to win new clients. The classic symptoms of a professional trying to grow his or her practice.
As an avid NFL football fan, I watched both playoff games over the weekend even though my team was no longer in contention. The winners were advancing to the big dance, the Super Bowl.
Although both games were exciting to watch, I was still amazed to see how many seemingly simple mistakes were made by players who get paid an unfathomable amount of money each year. Multimillion dollar contracts that could support all the small businesses in our town of Truckee, CA throughout this pandemic.
Countless times, wide receivers dropped passes that could have been caught by high schoolers.
Did these mistakes deter the quarterback or wide receiver to move on to the next play and try it again? Absolutely not. In fact, many times, that same receiver would make an unbelievable catch on the next play that made you appreciate how driven and determined they are to help their team win.
I recently caught up with an old friend of mine, Tom P., who is the VP of Sales for an international electronics company. I asked Tom how his sales team is weathering the Covid storm. Tom responded:
“We initially didn’t know how to adjust to the changing market, so we just threw enough sh!t against the wall to see what would stick. Some of our ideas failed, and others were successful.”
We both laughed, and I applauded him for getting creative and trying new things without worrying about the possibility of some of their ideas failing. In this new market, you need to change it up and not worry about the outcome.
How many of you sat down this time last year, put together a well-thought-out plan for 2020, had a strong start to the year, and then saw it all unravel in March?
For those raising your hands, how many of you adjusted your plan soon thereafter to adapt to the new market?
It was not an easy task for most of us since we felt like we were flying without instruments in an unpredictable storm. Who would think that our grandiose plans could be uprooted from something so unexpected? And the scary thought today is that we are still in the thick of it, yet many have learned to fly without instruments. Others have even been able to fix the instruments to allow them to fly above the storm.
How life evolves since the day we were born. At the sweet and innocent infant stage, everything starts out simple – eat, sleep, poop. In adulthood, we face the daily stresses that can wear us down over time. We are often tested on how to face adversity.
The current divide in our country is a reminder of how people cast opinions and view situations through different lenses. Some people are driven by fear and anger, while others are fueled by resolve and confidence.
In the cycling world, a word often used is “mechanical” as a noun. It is used when there is a problem with the bike such as a broken chain, a flat tire, or a faulty gear shifter. A mechanical will often happen during a ride; hence it is encouraged to bring the necessary tools with you to fix the problem to complete the ride.
A pet peeve of mine is when someone shows up for a ride with a pre-existing mechanical that needs to be fixed before we can even start. I get it. We are all busy, but when my window of ride time is tight, do not cut it short by having to fix a mechanical before we even get started on our ride! Take care of it the night before.
We all remember the feeling when COVID first hit. The market was cruising at 75 mph and then the parking brake suddenly gets pulled causing several professionals to skid out of control. Many froze at the wheel not knowing what to do.
The “Oh shit, now what?” feeling hit all of us to a certain degree.
One of the most challenging parts of business development is investing the time, patience, and perseverance to turn an initial contact into a trusting relationship. A relationship that can become a long-term client and often friend.
The reward can be rich, yet the investment is often big. Many relationships take years to develop before they reach the “client” status.
Photo Credit - Andrey Grushnikov
Contrary to what many believe, NOW is an excellent time for business development!
When Covid first hit us 6 months ago, the parking brake was pulled on business development. Fear, uncertainty, and panic took over most of the market. The last thing people wanted to do was to impose on others’ lives while we were all trying to sort out how to navigate these troubled waters. A logical and appropriate reaction.
Now, as we are all learning and understanding how to adjust to our new business environment, people are much more open to interaction and business conversations. In fact, many welcome this!