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You Want Progress, Not Just Action

I am a big supporter of taking action. Especially when stuck. I have always found that making a decision and taking the corresponding actions will get you moving again.

But this should not be activity for activities sake and shouldn't descend into chaos. It is activity with a purpose.

I meet too many salespeople who are doing lots but progressing little. In fact, I am on the buying side of a sales process at the moment, and it is terrible to watch. The seller, with good intention, keeps sending me stuff, but their deal has stalled. In principle I did want (note the past tense) what they are offering, but they are yet to overcome unknown objections (unknown to me and them!). Undeterred by the stalled state of their 'deal' they keep doing more stuff for me. None of it is making a blind bit of difference.

Why is this? Easy - they are not listening to me. They took action early (which is good) but they have not adjusted direction once they created a bit of momentum. They are simply chucking mud at the wall and hoping some sticks. What's worse, they are no doubt telling their sales manager that the deal is progressing because they are still talking to me. Little do they know I have already all but moved on. They will be surprised when the deal ends with a loss to them.

So, if you have a stalled deal, yes, do take action. A great action is to ask the client a question. A simple question like, 'I really appreciate the time and effort you have put into our engagement thus far, thanks. What would you suggest we do to progress from here?'

Then listen. Ask another question and listen again. Keep asking as long as you need to, then respond. Have a considered response, not just a 'paint by numbers sales wittering'. Rather ask yourself: "Does my response address the issues my client raised?"

If it is not in your power to do what the client asked, simply acknowledge that what they have raised is important to them. While you may not be able to address things the way they want, you can still provide feedback with options to build trust and momentum.

As a sales leader don't reward activity alone. I have worked for organisations where high activity is highly prized. While I agree that action is critical, make sure it is not just random 'doing stuff'.

One CEO I worked for would always challenge us with this question, "Are you doing things or achieving things?"

The former has its place to the extent that it addresses the latter.

Don't just do things - achieve things.



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