I am both a boater and a career sales
person living in Northeast Ohio on the shores of Lake Erie. What, you must be
wondering, does one thing have to do with the other? The weather conditions, at
times, are not in my favor for boating or sales. Allow me to explain.
There’s one thing a boater on Lake Erie
knows and that is she can change her temperament without notice. One moment
you’re enjoying a nice, flat lake and the next there are four foot swells and
20 knot winds out of the northwest. Or, oftentimes, I’ll look out of my office
window at a beautiful lake calling my name, but come Saturday morning when I
want to take my family for a ride, the lake is choppy.
Sales can be like boating on Lake Erie.
Of course, there are plenty of times when the weather (or customer
relationship) is just fine. But, there are also the times when things aren’t
going so smoothly. Rough waters if you will. It seems we can predict our sales
forecast about as well as the weather forecast. Boating is about the
relationship between the boater, the vessel and Mother Nature. Sales is about
the sales person, the service or product and the client.
When it comes to sales we all have the
best of intentions, like wanting the weather to be perfect on Saturday for
family time. We can plan ahead, looking forward to a great day, go get the boat
cleaned-prepped-fueled up on Friday evening, just to be faced with terrible
conditions and an immediate change of course come Saturday morning. It’s disappointing but
unavoidable. It is the reality of being a boater.
Sales is no different. Relationships
with our client’s experience ups and downs, but how YOU react to a change in
weather, so to speak, can chart a new course or sink your ship. Client
relationships are not perfect. We should always strive for perfection, but the
reality is that there’s no such thing as perfect. A perfect day on the water is
conceptually one that is enjoyable with good weather. Conceptually we want
relationships with clients that are smooth sailing with little to no
disruptions. Unfortunately, again, this is not reality.
Handling client relationships is about
being prepared. An ‘A’ level sales person is prepared to “live in the moment”
or “chart a new course” just as a boater must do when faced with severe
weather changes. Clients can have a bad day and simply want to vent about your
customer service. They may be unhappy with the quality of a product or service.
There may have been a billing mistake and they caught it on the wrong day. You,
as the sales person, must be able to react.
Planning ahead is not easy, rather it requires
a sense of confidence that when you chart a new course, or change plans with
how you’re managing the client relationship, you ultimately want an outcome
that is enjoyable. Remember, you are a sales person at the core, so you will
need to sell your ideas and plans to the client to return them to a place of