By Jeff Fortney
When my son was in fourth grade, he brought home a curious note from his teacher. Unlike most notes from teachers, it was not a disciplinary message. Instead, it gave a detailed explanation of the next month's lesson plan on accountability.
To help the class understand that consequences are associated with one's actions, the teacher assigned each student an "accountabil-a-buddy." The pairs were tasked with holding each other accountable for their progress in class.
Throughout the month, students were given homework that wasn't necessarily a joint project, but grading was dependent upon each child's ability to complete the assigned tasks.
The students were also prompted to talk to their buddies daily, reminding each other of homework assignments providing help as needed - all while learning that by encouraging others they were also helping themselves.
It's easy to claim we hold ourselves accountable for our sales efforts. As adults we understand the consequences of doing or not doing the tasks necessary for success, yet we still make rationalizations that prevent us from succeeding. They come in many forms, such as:
Such thoughts are walls blocking true success. We all face similar demons. Do we ever really know for certain how anyone will react? Is there anything wrong with merchants saying they aren't interested? Why accept the negative repercussions of not doing what you're supposed to do?
The difference between thriving and stagnant sales can be directly traced to how we handle our personal demons. The best way to deal with them is to apply the same success strategy my son learned in fourth grade: Find an "accountabil-a-buddy."
All great salespeople have individuals or groups that hold them accountable for their actions and are not afraid to speak up when demon thoughts attack, so they can overcome the negativity holding them back.
A buddy need not be a close personal friend. It can be someone on your team or in a peer group. For example, one salesperson demands that his entire staff keep him accountable to his sales plan.
He has a specific target for cold calling and telemarketing and measures this target by moving a stress ball from one drawer to another once he completes a call. His staff has been instructed to check the drawers often to make sure he stays on track.
You don't need to use this system, but you do need someone to ask key questions about your sales efforts. It can be anyone you trust - a spouse, friend, co-worker or even your ISO partner.
Find someone who is willing to ask you the right questions, and give him or her permission to get honest answers from you. Your buddy will also need your assurance that your relationship will not be jeopardized by adding this new dimension.
In addition, share what you want measured and how you plan to measure it. If you are measuring calls to prospective merchants, your buddy needs to know how many prospects you are targeting within a given day and over the course of a week, as well as when you plan to concentrate on selling.
You should also identify which demons trouble you the most. What discourages you from making that next call or handling a certain issue? Your buddy doesn't need to understand the payments business - he or she just needs to ask the right questions and hold you accountable.
To be an effective buddy requires a commitment of both time and attention. The best buddy is often someone who needs an "accountabil-a-buddy" as well, someone who also sells and is battling the same demons. This makes the time commitment less of a burden, as you can reciprocate with the same kind of support.
If you get off track, a good buddy will always ask why you didn't make your calls today or why you talked yourself out of doing so. If you're unable to answer such questions, you'll be more likely to make those calls in the future. When your buddy is done questioning your progress, it's your turn to play the buddy role.
In the fourth grade my son took his duties as an "accountabil-a-buddy" seriously. He called his buddy every day in the late afternoon, and his buddy would question him, too. The results were quick and obvious: both of their grades improved.
Now, as my son completes his doctorate studies, he has several buddies in the same situation who work diligently to keep each other on track. He learned early in life the tremendous value and benefits of accountability.
Now ask yourself, what demon is telling you that this won't work? This is your proof positive that it's time to start looking for a buddy.
Jeff Fortney is Director of Business Development with Clearent LLC. He has more than 12 years' experience in the payments industry. Contact him at email@example.com or 972-618-7340.
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