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By Kelly Riggs | Sales + Leadership

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May 23

3 Words Elite Salespeople Embrace

by Kelly Riggs

“It is an immutable law in business that words are words,
explanations are explanations, promises are promises,
but only performance is reality.”
~ Harold Geneen

Res ipsa loquitur.

The three words elite salespeople embrace.

Let’s use the game of golf to illustrate. I absolutely LOVE to play golf. Which means, by the way, that I like to be out on the course enjoying the weather and the scenery, and along the way, I hit a little white ball in every imaginable direction except the right one.

The thing about golf is that, regardless of how good (or bad) you may be, golf ultimately comes down to a number – the number you record on each hole and the final number for the round. Your score. But, the truth is, it doesn’t so much matter how you get to that number (as long as you do it according to the rules), it’s just the actual number that matters.

That number does not say one thing about how you hit the ball, what your swing looks like, the lucky (or unlucky) bounces you got, or anything else. It just tells you how many strokes you recorded for that round.

For example, there are lots of players on the PGA Tour that have beautiful swings, but they fall short of winning tournaments. The bottom nine players on the PGA Tour golf rankings have no wins, no top-25 finishes, and have earned less than $10,000 this year. These are professional golfers, and I’m sure they look the part – but the number doesn’t lie.

There is at least one guy on the tour with a….well….ugly swing. Described by one analyst as “an octopus falling out of a tree,” that swing still wins a lot of tournaments. He is Jim Furyk – former PGA Tour Player of the Year, former U.S. Open Champion, with 17 wins on the PGA Tour, and ranked as high as No. 2 in the world.

But that swing?? Wow.

The thing is, I’m sure he couldn’t care less. Why? Because it’s NOT how, it’s HOW MANY. Catch that? It’s the number you put on the card. It’s not what you meant to do. Or your good intention. Or even how hard you worked.

Yes, performance is a function of hard work, no question. But PGA golfers don’t work hard just so they can say they work hard. They work hard so they can produce a winning number. No one goes back to the clubhouse and talks about how hard they played, or how pretty their swing looks.

Res ipsa loquitur.

That’s a Latin phrase that means “the thing speaks for itself.” It is a legal principle that allows someone to infer that negligence has occurred due to the very nature of an accident or injury.

In this case, from the number on the scorecard you can infer that the golfer played well enough to win.

Or not.

Who is on Your All-Excuse Team?

In selling, it’s very hard to get away from the number. Either you hit the number or you don’t.

The problem is that most salespeople don’t want to be responsible when they fall short. They have more excuses than…well, just insert your favorite metaphor here. My personal experience is that salespeople have never found an excuse they couldn’t use. It never seems to be their fault when they fall short.

It’s the economy, or the territory, or the marketing, or the product, or the pricing, or anything else that sounds plausible.
But here is what I say to that: Res ipsa loquitur. The thing – the number – speaks for itself. Deal with it.

Yes, of course, there is the occasional exception, but by and large, we can make strong inferences from the number. When you don’t make quota, the responsibility is yours. Period. In fact, I have found that the difference between sales success and mediocrity is the salesperson’s willingness to accept the responsibility implied by those three short (Latin) words.

Very, very few people look at failure or sub-par performance and immediately think they could have, or should have, done something differently. Instead, the All-Excuse Team rushes in to make an appearance.

  • Not fair.
  • Not my fault.
  • If only….
  • My situation is different.
  • I didn’t know…
  • We didn’t ship…

We could fill a small book with excuses. Maybe a large book. But the Top 6% – the elite salespeople – don’t understand the language of blame. They don’t practice the habits of helplessness. Instead, they adjust. They maneuver. They find ways. They get better. They look for answers.

Salespeople might consider the words of famed 19th century Norwegian explorer, Fridtjof Nansen:

“The difficult is what takes a little time; the impossible is what takes a little longer.”

When things go wrong, when circumstances work against you, when customers surprise you, instead of taking on victim status, think POSSIBILITIES. This kind of nonsense happens to everyone – the difference is that successful salespeople are always planning for the worst. They plan and prepare. They don’t wait for the company or the sales manager to fix it – they take proactive steps to fix it themselves.

If your swing sucks and you’re not winning, change your freaking swing. Don’t blame the course, fix your swing!

And if your crushing it, but your swing sucks, don’t sweat it…it’s not HOW, it’s HOW MANY.

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About the Author

Kelly Riggs is a business performance coach and founder of the Business LockerRoom. A former national Salesperson of the Year and serial entrepreneur, Kelly is a recognized thought leader in the areas of sales, management leadership, and strategic planning. He serves clients ranging from small, privately held companies to Fortune 500 firms.

Kelly has written two books: “1-on-1 Management™: What Every Great Manager Knows That You Don’t” and “Quit Whining and Start SELLING! A Step-by-Step Guide to a Hall of Fame Career in Sales.”