By the time you read this, we will know whether the New England Patriots or the Atlanta Falcons won Super Bowl LI. As I write this, that part of history has not yet been written. However, all the Super Bowl hype has me thinking back to last year’s game, when the quarterback I have respected for the better part of two decades defied all odds and expectations and came back from a career-ending injury to lead the Denver Broncos to a Super Bowl victory.
I have always been a Colts fan, but because they have not had much success recently and because I live in Detroit Lions territory, I was rooting for Peyton Manning and the Broncos in 2016.
Whether you are a Manning or even a football fan, there is no denying that Peyton Manning epitomized what it means to be a professional. His insane work ethic and study of his art are well known, and they show in his stats and the numerous records he holds.
Recently, I have forced myself to remember and emulate one aspect of Manning’s efforts to be the best at what he did. He was well known for his “tape watching.” He would study video of his opponents and his teammates and strive to adapt his skills to their styles of play. But he also spent as much, if not more, time studying his own failures. He would watch the plays in which he was sacked or the ball was intercepted, and he would watch replays of games he lost miserably. Manning felt that as painful as it was to relive these experiences, he had to identify their causes to minimize the risk of history repeating itself.
It is common for young athletes to watch tape in an effort to improve, but Manning continued even after he had proven himself. Even as a multi-millionaire and one of the most respected athletes in history, he still acted like he was trying to become a first-round draft pick. He never reached the point that so many of us reach, where we think we know our strengths and weaknesses enough that we do not have to study any more.
When I first began selling water treatment products with a toddler son and a daughter on the way, I needed to be the best I could be, both to satisfy my pride and provide my needed income. I read as many sales books as I could get my hands on and I worked evenings and weekends. At that time, I also had a state-of-the-art, technological marvel called a micro-cassette recorder, which I used to record many of my sales presentations.
At the time, Michigan was a one-party recording state. That meant I technically did not have to ask my customers’ permission to record conversations, because I was involved in the conversation and I consented. That rarely mattered, however, as I usually asked people if I could record myself anyway. I would say, “Do you mind if I record myself during this presentation? I’ve been trying to make sure I’m explaining all this stuff accurately.” Out of the dozens of times I asked, not a single person said no. In fact, I think they appreciated it, and it gave me a bit of credibility.
Analyze Your Mistakes
I am pretty good at selling water treatment products—my closing ratio supports that—but I can tell you that listening to myself sometimes made it blatantly obvious why I did not have a 100% closing ratio. I was, at times, clearly able to determine why I did not close a sale. There were times I was grateful to my customers for allowing me to serve them, despite my presentation.
With today’s smartphones, recording is easy, so I am surprised at how many salespeople do not want to do it. It was hard to listen to myself, and sometimes it still is. I sometimes cannot believe what spews out of my mouth when I speak. At least when I am writing, I can delete and edit myself.
Now I am a sales trainer. It would be easy to feel like I have done my time, but when I started Moti-Vitality and decided to train sales professionals, I made a commitment to never become that guy who had not picked up a test kit in years. I have seen many of those “trainers” and I watched the audience nod and smile the same way I do.
Sales is sales, and it has been since human communication began, but presentation styles and purchasing drivers change from year to year or even month to month. If you have not picked up a test kit in the past year, you are going to be a bit out of touch with reality, and salespeople know that.
One of the things I often do to hold myself accountable is record my sales presentation, customized specifically for a client, on video. This allows him or her to have a resource as he or she trains future sales professionals, but it also forces me to review my own presentation.
Review & Learn
I was reviewing one of my video presentations this week for a current client. After doing hundreds, maybe even thousands, of water treatment sales calls, you would think I would be pretty polished.
But when I watch myself on video, I sometimes feel like I am constantly cringing. Aside from the obvious weight I have put back on and the fact that I have never gotten used to the sound of my recorded voice, I wanted to climb into the video and scream at myself, “Shut up and listen!”
“Two ears and one mouth!” I would say if I could. I am ashamed of every interruption or moment I talk over a customer, and I am in awe when I completely misunderstand a question or comment. It takes everything I have to avoid shutting the recording off and deleting it.
Instead, I take note and learn from the video for future sales. I place a text overlay on the video pointing out the error so anyone watching also can learn from my mistakes. As painful as it is to watch myself, especially knowing others are also watching, I am comforted to know this is what made Peyton Manning one of the best of all time, and what sets sales professionals apart from salespeople.