I live near Seattle, Washington, home to one of the few Major League Baseball teams that have never won the World Series (or even come close, for that matter). However, the team has housed some of the world’s best players, as evidenced by their induction into the Hall of Fame. In the most recent induction ceremony, a Seattle Mariners player by the name of Edgar Martinez was honored as an inductee. As you might imagine, it was major sports news in Seattle.
In a Seattle Times interview, Edgar told the story of his very first MLB game as a Mariner. In a single game, he made four significant errors—more than I’d ever heard another MLB player have! However, the interesting part of the story is Edgar’s comments about how he “controlled” his self-talk. Throughout the game, he was fighting back the negative thoughts by reminding himself that he knew he was better than his mistakes, and they would not continue to happen. These reminders lifted his spirits and allowed him to put the past behind him quickly, with the focus coming back to success. Obviously, this method worked for Edgar, as he went on to become one of the best-known Mariners in the team’s history!
A Waste of Time
Each of us carries on a conversation with ourselves, whether we realize it or not. This is called self-talk. In fact, we say some 50,000 words to ourselves, every day! We must learn how to recognize negative self-talk and turn it into a conversation about how to improve ourselves and our companies.
Like Edgar, we all slip up. But, instead of letting the errors evolve into negative self-talk, use that as an opportunity to better yourself.
I remember when I was beginning my professional career in a B2B company as a young person and hearing things like, “You shouldn’t waste your time doing that; it’s just a suggestion that’s meant to be ignored.” Luckily, I didn’t listen to them. When I heard them say, “Don’t waste your time trying to get business from that customer, they will never buy anything from us,” it fueled my fire even more. I didn’t allow their negativity to become my own self-talk.
I learned that there are a lot of people who lack follow-through. So, I decided early on that I did not want to be like these individuals. I vowed that I would always follow through, and it was up to me to determine if something was “a waste of time.” As it turns out, many of the companies that would “never buy from us” became some of my best customers!
I made a cold call to one such customer who had thousands of pieces of equipment. A man named Howard picked up the phone, and I was told that all buying decisions were handled in California. Naturally, I asked for the name and contact information for that person. I wrote down that I would follow up with a letter, followed by a phone call to California.
A month later, I stopped by the local operations to see if Howard had any feedback for me… which there was not. I repeated this cycle for about a year, always remaining polite and being diligent about following up. Unfortunately, the answer was always the same: no word from California and no change.
That is, until one day, I received a call from Howard. He wanted to see me right away. I was there within the hour, and Howard told me they wanted to make a change and do business with my company after all! They were a massive customer for our business, and I was thrilled. We started the following month, and I handled every detail to ensure it ran smoothly. In that first year of making calls, Howard had rarely even really looked up from his desk when I walked in. But, a couple of months after we started with them, I stopped by to make sure all was going well.
“Howard, what was it that made you decide to do business with my company after all?” I asked casually.
Howard uncharacteristically looked at me in the eye, turned around his chair, and faced me with a smile. “Kim, I am thrilled you asked me! Take a look over here.”
He opened a desk drawer and pulled out a stack of business cards over an inch thick, containing 50 or so cards from a period of several years. The cards were all from individuals selling the same products and services I was selling. As a matter of fact, many of them were the same people I worked with who had told me not to waste my time calling on this company because “they will never do business with us.”
“You see, Kim, I make all the decisions on who we do business with. I told every one of these salespeople the same thing I told you—that all decisions were made in California. And wouldn’t you know it, not a single one of them ever followed up. The contact in California is actually my boss, and while talking a few months ago, he jokingly mentioned that if I didn’t get you to stop calling him and writing letters, he was going to fire me! We both figured, there was nobody that would follow up and take care of us as well as you would do, so we went with you.”
The Magic is in the Follow Up
If it takes an average of five to seven calls to close a sale, then why do most salespeople only make two calls before they give up? The difference is in follow up. All my colleagues knew these numbers but still lacked the self-discipline to follow through. They allowed negative self-talk to cloud the way they saw a sale.
When I was young and just starting out, I was confused as to why I was getting promoted and rising in management responsibility and titles when the people around me weren’t. However, looking back, it is now clear. When you do what you say you’ll do, and when you plan your day and follow through, success will follow you!
It’s your choice: are you going to turn your self-talk around and focus on what you want to (and are capable of) accomplishing? Or are you going to listen to the naysayers and tell yourself it’s a waste of time to follow up? You just never know when the time is right, and you land a deal because you were the only one who kept calling.
Kim Lorenz is an author, entrepreneur, and visionary who founded two companies starting at age 26 with zero backing, then sold both to Fortune 500 companies before he was 47. Kim cuts through the noise of becoming a tech millionaire and demonstrates the work it takes to build multi-million-dollar industrial-strength companies. Kim is the author of Tireless and lives in Seattle where he enjoys yachting and philanthropic work in Africa. For more information, click here.
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