Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Winning is the Science of being Prepared

I thought I would give credit where credit is due. I picked this quote up as my tag line about a decade ago. The actual quote is “Winning is the Science of being Totally Prepared” said by George Herbert Allen, NFL coach. I stress George HERBERT Allen because there are a number of George Allen’s. George Herbert’s son was George Felix Allen, senator from Virginia. George Felix got into some controversy during his failed re-election attempt in 2006. So please do not think I have a political agenda in this. I don’t.

Back to the main point: why this quote? There were several things I could relate to. First it is short and catchy. This makes it easy to remember. Nothing could be worse then forgetting your own tag line. Second of all, I believe it. I have never been much for embracing the victim mentality that pervades society. I truly believe there are victims in the world and plenty of them. But I feel their plight is diluted by large groups of people who feel that they are victims when actually they are just seeing the natural results of their actions. This group desensitizes society toward the real victims. The upper echelon victimologist have learned to chose antagonist outside of their control like the weather, economy, government, or heredity. All of these can have a negative impact on the direction of your life. Back to the quote: if we are prudent we can take action to mitigate the risk of any of these and other forces on our lives. That is not to say we can have a serene life void of conflict and stress. We just don’t have to be a victim of our circumstances anymore.

Here is one of many examples; you work for a company that is not performing up to industry expectation. You’re an individual contributor and can’t directly affect the path of the company. You have no real reason to believe the company will downsize anytime soon. If you are the normal person in the workforce you just keep working. You believe if you perform at or above expectations all will go well, for you anyway. It’s only fair, right. Life is seldom fair. Quite frankly if most of us got what we deserved we would be worse off for it. So BANG one day the hammer falls; lay-offs, downsizing, right sizing, repositioning, re-inventing, you name your poison. And guess what, your name is called. They decide to cut back in your department or your location, nothing to do with performance. If your skills are germane only to your specific job at your company and you have let your personal network grow stale, you might start to feel like a victim. But, had you started to protect yourself by upgrading your skills and maintaining your network of contacts, the impact would be much less. In the process you might have found yourself protected by the company as a more valuable asset. You might have gotten another job before the hammer fell. At a minimum you would have greatly reduced the pain involved with transition. This strategy applies even if your company is doing well but the industry as a whole is going through a transition or even the economy of your geographic area.

As examples go losing your job is a big one, what about a smaller example. You’re going to see a potential new client. You’ve got no idea of the potential lifecycle value of the prospect if they become a client. One of the big pitfalls most sales people get into at one time or another is giving the client a great solution just to be under bid by a competitor. Generally, this happen when the solution precedes the relationship. People buy from people they trust. No relationship, no trust. So if you are aware of all of these things what are you going to do about it? Great sales people, and I mean the top 1%, would not only analyze the prospect’s business before they got there, they would analyze the competition. Is there a competitor already engaged with the prospect? Can you find out the competitive salesperson's name and their relationship with the prospect? You know that you can’t just charge in and save the day. It doesn’t work that way. You need to establish a new relationship before you can replace an existing relationship. Two other cardinal rules apply. First, to replace an incumbent you need to have a three to one benefit advantage. Second when trying to overcome a competitor you first must establish that you are every bit as good as them before you present your advantages. Otherwise the prospect smells a bait-and-switch coming on.

Now you know the rules. You did your homework. You understood and prepared for the potential outcomes. If the prospect loves you from the start and never looks back, great. If competition moves in on your deal, you won’t be the victim.

I wish I knew where I got this, but I don’t so we will call it an urban legend. If you spend 30 minutes a day learning something new you will be a subject matter expert in that subject in less than five years. Be prepared, don’t be a victim of your circumstances.

“Winning is the Science of being Totally Prepared” - George Herbert Allen, NFL coach

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