Preparing for Chaos: Knowing What Works in the Sales Game

The ancient Roman philosopher Seneca once said: “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.”

We tend to think of highly successful business, political and social leaders as visionaries. But look closer and you’ll see that they succeed by possessing the right skills and making use of the appropriate tactics for the jobs they face at the time. In other words, they are prepared.  Of all the qualities we tend to admire in business, preparation probably gets the least notice. Experts in leadership, communication and sales are inclined to see the need for preparation as a given – an obvious truth. But your company won’t survive the chaos that’s engulfing much of the world of commerce – let alone embrace it – unless you and the people who work for you are consciously prepared to succeed.

Have you watched the Super Bowl and been either awestruck or horrified at the performance of The Star Spangled Banner? As someone who sings our national anthem at triathlons and other events around the country, I can tell you that successfully performing what is a difficult song in front of thousands of people – or even a few – requires preparation. It’s the difference between starting with a roar or a groan. The same is true when I compete in a triathlon. Having a well-thought-out plan for transitioning from one leg of a competition to the next can make the difference between winning my division or finishing in the middle of the pack. In one instance, I came in second because I wasn’t properly prepared for the transition from swimming to cycling.

There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from failure.

General Colin Powell once said, “There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from failure.” I learned the simple lesson that when you’re competing in a triathlon it’s not worth the time it takes to put on socks after the swim. Preparation makes a similar difference in your sales organization. It’s the reason your crosstown competitor is embracing the chaos while you’re being inundated by it. Sales professionals who are prepared project a sense of confidence when connecting with customers. They’ve determined the most appropriate and effective engagement strategies before uttering the first words. They know how to communicate and interact effectively to successfully deliver information. They know what works, and what doesn’t.

There are no shortcuts to success. Even in the unlikely event you manage stumble upon it in your sales organization, you must still be prepared if you intend to maintain it.

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