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Ask the Tough Questions: The One Thing That Sets Apart the Best Leaders and Salespeople

Two weeks ago my family began packing for a well-deserved trip to Cabo San Lucas. My stepson dug out his black rubber fins, I bought new beach sandals, and my husband gathered his best Nikon camera equipment on the office floor. It was just twelve days before departure when our ten year old started to cough, then a fever struck. Then, yuck! I contracted conjunctivitis.

After missing several days of school, my stepson announced, “we should cancel the trip.” I don’t want to miss any more school, I’ll fall behind.”

Our fourth grader loves his teacher. Not because he’s jovial, or he tells jokes, or because he has parties. It’s because he holds the class accountable.

In the national bestseller “Crucial Conversations,” authors Patterson, Grenny, McMillan, and Switzler, maintain that after studying the most effective leaders across multiple organizations, what sets them apart isn’t technical skills, or charisma, but their ability to step up to employees, bosses and co-workers and to hold them accountable.

Your ability to hold yourself, your customers, and others, accountable will make the difference between having a little respect and having tremendous respect.

It will be the difference between having small results, and monumental results. It’s the line between short-term fun and long-term success.

Ask yourself these simple questions:

• Do I put off asking the questions I’m afraid to ask of my customers when I know they’ll help me get the sale?
• Do I delay having difficult or embarrassing conversations even though I know I eventually need to have them?
• Rather than getting into an argument, do I hold off critical discussions all together?
• Do I procrastinate more than I should?
• Do I do the easy jobs first, and save the difficult tasks for another day?

Holding yourselves and others accountable can be embarrassing and humbling. When my friend David Shaklee was a sales manager he used to say: “get out on the skinny branches”. He likened sales to getting out on the skinny branches of a tree, an often scary endeavor. “Salespeople need to have courage”, he would say; “they need to take chances”.

I’ve always used rejection to face my fears. The call you’re afraid to make is the call you must make.


Try it. Right now, make a list of the ten people or the ten things that you’re most scared to do, that you are most terrified or embarrassed to do, and do it.

Please write me if you have a success story with results. Once you have a success story, a personal victory, or a friendship renewed, you won’t remember the fear or any failures along the way. (No one remembers the hundreds of Beatles songs that didn’t make the album Sargent Peppers).

I heard a saying once that “action cures fear!”

As for me, right about now, I may prefer the action of paddle boarding to the Bay Area rain. But then again, I’m thinking these skinny branches just may hold up.

For more from Shari, check out www.LevitinLearning.com where you can more information on 24/7 virtual training. We’ve basically virtualized Shari so whether you’re 10 minutes before a tour or you’re at home trying to prepare for the next day, you log in and Shari will pop up and teach you the best sales skills.

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