Seeds of Luck

Rick Davis
November 1, 2008
COLUMN | Sales & Marketing

If ever there were a time when people felt they were running out of luck, this is it. The financial crisis of today has left a lot of people feeling scared and victimized. The good news is that the economic sun will rise again and life will be eventually easier. In the meantime, stop feeling victimized and create your own luck. Seneca, the great Roman philosopher noted 2,000 years ago, “Luck is when preparation meets opportunity.”

Tony, a veteran window salesman in California, has always lived by this philosophy. He gets to know people in his market and persistently makes himself available to help. He sends out e-mails, letters and makes regular sales calls. His contact information is continually updated in a computer database that enables him to know the market better than his competitors. One sale he made came from a prospect he had known for three years. Tony facetiously remarked, “I guess I was bound to get lucky sooner or later.”

The following three steps provide a sure-fire method to create your own luck.

STEP 1: FACE THE FACTS
The economic picture is not rosy. In fact, it shows the worst trending in 30 years and our political leaders seem determined to make us fear for the worst. Not a single economist will offer optimistic projections for the construction industry in 2009. There is no quick fix to your business dilemma. These problems didn’t appear overnight and will not go away overnight.

Rather than fight the forces of the universe, accept them. There is no reason to suppose you can change the dynamics of the industry, but instead you can only accept them and plan accordingly. The market is way down and will remain down for many months to come. Accept the facts and deal accordingly by focusing on the actions you can take.

STEP 2: RE-THINK YOUR PROSPECTING PHILOSOPHY
Keep selling by “planting” seeds. The history of selling has emphasized the concept of “hunting” in which salespeople are aggressive trackers of sales opportunities. This transactional emphasis might serve your organization well during times of abundance as we had in the late 1990s and early in the 21st country. This aggressive posture can, however, backfire in times of scarcity like we face today.
Consider an alternative sales philosophy that advocates a long-term focus on building relationships and planting seeds of opportunity. Builders and contractors choose new suppliers when they have problems with existing suppliers or new challenges that arise. Be in position to be the next supplier of choice when the timing is right by planting seeds of opportunity.

Hunting kills prey while planting nourishes and develops an ongoing source of food. Hunting is an event, while planting is a process of careful planning and persistent attention to a disciplined process of work. Plant seeds by cultivating strong relationships with prospects before they become customers and you will be the first person they think of when it is time to choose a new supplier.

STEP 3: SPEAK IN 21st CENTURY LINGUISTICS
In the modern world, the conventional methods of communication that used to work are not always effective. Your prospects and clients are difficult to reach by phone and often prefer e-mail messages, conventional mail, text messages and other modern forms of communication. Keep in touch with prospects by planting seeds of thought with e-mails, phone calls and short visits. It may take a dozen different communications before a relationship bears fruit. Keep nurturing the seeds of growth and eventually the rewards will come your way.

BOTTOM LINE: KEEP SELLING
These are tough times and there is not a company in our industry that is not feeling pressure from the market. Heroes are made when the going gets tough by creating their own luck. Keep selling through these tough times and create your luck. Do your job well in the tough times, regardless of the results, and you’ll be a better leader in the long run. Perhaps Thomas Jefferson said it best: “I am a great believer in luck and I find that the harder I work, the more I have of it.”

Rick Davis is president of Building Leaders Inc., a Chicago-based sales consulting company, and provider of the DriveTime Diploma Series of Audio Sales Training. He has written the book "Strategic Sales in the Building Industry" and gives sales and sales management presentatios nationwide. He can be reached at 773/769-4409 or rickdavis@buildingleaders.com.