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Shari Levitin Blog

Stop Solving Problems

Recently, I agreed to do pro bono work for a startup that needed to call 148 hospitals to complete an important survey. They hired a salesperson, Veronica, to make the calls. After six weeks, she felt frustrated and defeated.

“No one will return my calls,” she said. “I’ve left three and four voicemails and they refuse to call me back. Some of them have mailboxes that are full, so I can’t even leave a message!” Like many salespeople, Veronica focused on what she was doing wrong. She struggled to analyze what was working. She counted the “no’s” and felt like a failure.
We live in a problem-centric culture. We look for what’s wrong with people and ideas, rather than what’s right. Psychologists focus on our mental disorders and not on the areas of life where we’re doing well. The news spends most of its time on disasters, murders, and political disarray, and medical doctors consistently look for disease rather than health and wellness.

Salespeople do this when they fall into a slump. We ask ourselves, “What am I doing wrong? Why did I miss that deal?” While these are useful questions, and questions that should be asked long after the deal is finished, don’t forget to ask yourself:

  • What did I do right?
  • What worked the last time I was on fire? Can I quantify it?
  • How did I feel when I connected with my customer? How do I recreate that feeling and treat my customer with that same care and connectedness?

If all you do is dissect problems, you’ll move further away from solutions.

I asked Veronica, “What’s your penetration goal?”

She replied, “My boss’s goal is 50% but mine is 70%.”

“Where are you now?” I asked.

“Only 18%,” Veronica said.

Instead of focusing on those who didn’t participate, I asked her what she did to facilitate the 18% that did?

Her whole demeanor changed as she shared her productive conversations and what obstacles she overcame. Veronica explained that when she did well: she thanked the customers for taking the time, she listened to them discuss their challenges and she tackled her most difficult clients before getting sidetracked with email and other projects.

I told Veronica to replay those successful calls in her mind before she picks up the phone, to look only at what she’s doing right when she’s on with her customers.

The result?

She went on to secure another 40% in two weeks. By focusing on what she did right, she shifted her attitude and reached her goals.

As human beings and salespeople, we have an intrinsic need to feel that we are successful.

When you focus on what’s right instead of what’s missing, your demeanor will shift and your sales will soar.

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