Thursday, May 28, 2009

The Bishop of Sales Motivation

“Don’t be scared by the word No”

“What happened yesterday has nothing to do with what you can do today or what you will do tomorrow.” 

“No matter how deep of a hole you’re in, look up and work towards the way out.”


These could be the bread and butter motivational staples of any quality sales manager looking to rally his troops.  But this NY Jew blogger last heard these words spoken as the core tenets of a sermon delivered by Bishop Eddie Long at New Birth Missionary Baptist mega-Church in Lithonia, Georgia this past Sunday morning. 

A good friend of mine had his father (an orthodox Jew) in town for an Atlanta visit, and the father’s request to observe a southern gospel Sunday morning service led to me tagging along for a 35 minute drive and mezzanine seats staring down at the stage of the grandest sanctuary I’d ever seen.  Nestled within foothills and parking lots reminiscent of the Meadowlands, tour busses empty as well dressed predominantly black churchgoers greet each other jovially, yet somehow without a single family member among them breaking stride on their march towards services.  The walk inside felt like I had box seats to a big concert.  We grabbed flyers and found our way to a gracious usher who showed us our seats amongst the eager mob.  I could go on forever about the music, pageantry and joy of the scene, but this is a sales blog, so let’s leave it to say that these churchgoers love to sing and move together, and they don’t believe in bashfulness or restraint while talking to their Savior. 

Roughly half an hour of boisterous gospel karaoke later, the Bishop takes the stage unannounced with a powerful physicality and a soft raspy verbal delivery that brought a 2000+ audience to silence as everyone strained to absorb each word.  What I understand now is that the introductory words didn’t matter nearly as much as the peacockish display of bejeweled success from a man in complete command of his universe.  He tells a quick story about how compelled he feels to share today’s reading, and he instructs the captive audience to flip to a verse and read along with him as strategically strewn projectors beam verses alongside his dictation on the walls. 

The scripture is read earnestly in unison, but nobody seems to ponder the words with much sincerity.  They know the message will be revealed shortly in language and intonation that slips naturally between hood bravado and righteous liberator.  “I know times are tough.”  “I know you feel like your purpose is lost and hope doesn’t know your name.”  “I know your mistakes feel like they’ll never forgive you for your future.”  He kicks aside an invisible shackling demon.  “But I’m here to tell you that your past is just what happened before you did what you’ll do next.” He glares the entire crowd in the eye.  "And you've got to bring the future to the present by focusing on what you need to do instead of what you used to do." These aren’t verbatim quotes, but I think they’re close enough to the message he was preaching.  My first thought is “Holy sh*t. Did I just get goosebumps in a Church!?” Followed by “I hope this guy never applies for my job.”  

What I expected to be a recruitment speech for the saving light of Jesus Christ turned out to be the most animated and enrapturing motivational speech I’d ever witnessed.  This guy could walk into any sales office and within minutes convince the most underperforming sales team that quota was within reach if only they committed themselves to making it so. 

Sales Managers are a flashy bunch.  We put forth the image of success so our team sees the tangible possibilities of their efforts.  Sales Managers are an egotistical bunch.  We hog the glory while those in the background perform their duties in silent anonymity.  Bishop Eddie Long practically sparkles and openly praises his own skill in verbalizing the good book’s meaning for the masses (pun intended).  He was selling his own books, CDs and lecture fees just as much as the merits of a holy life, but he for damn sure had three Jews hooked on his hype. 

Aside from strategy and positioning, there’s a thin line between motivational speaking and sales management.  A pumped up sales team sells better regardless of whether their slinging the gospel or widgets.  The Bishop can speak to my team any day…I’m just not letting him know what we’re selling.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Sales and Sports. Peas and Carrots.

Sports analogies are so commonplace in sales performance literature that I avoid them almost completely for fear of being brushed off as unoriginal, or worse – prideful in my own ignorant redundancy.  Still, references to success in athletics while coaching sales activity remain relevant over time and industry trends for good reason.  The whole ‘You get out what you put in’ mantra merits the attention it receives, and, in this being a blog about sales basics, I think the occasional reminder is healthy and necessary.

The typical response to the question of why athletes have the makings of good sales professionals is that athletes are likeable, coachable and understand the concept of a team.  What seems to fly under the radar is the common trait that athletes thrive on competition, and I think a self-driven competitive outlook is the key driver of sports success that carries the most weight in selling.

As you narrow your focus on closing the deal, don’t lose sight of the fact that it’s still you versus the other guy, and the other guy could be working to win your sale at all hours.  As surely as someone is going to win, true prospects are going to buy.  Whether you’re a team of one or several thousand, you have to constantly train and re-evaluate your strategy in order to win.  When the challenge seems most difficult, you have to dig deep inside yourself and focus on getting the job done one step at a time. There’s always somebody looking to knock off the champ…it’s hard not to get carried away once you get going. 

Sales leaders should remind their athletes of the thrill of winning and the determination it took to get there. Nothing lifts the mood of a struggling sales rep like the memory of their greatest comeback or upset victory.  Sales analogies are the pick-and-roll of sales coaching; A trusty standby for occasions where more novel insight escapes you. 

Sales and sports.  Sometimes cliché is OK.  Sometimes. Now show me you have some heart out there!