If we don’t consistently manage and nurture our sales pipeline, our growth will suffer. We recently saw this problem in our own company.
Although business was going well, our incoming prospects and sales meetings slowed to a trickle. A closer look revealed the logjam: Our emotions had gotten the best of us. Our sales team grew so used to success, we stopped spending extra time on the smaller tasks. Over time, this inaction worked against us.
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Our failure was a perfect example of why personal accountability is so important: If we don’t fully realize and respect the impact of every aspect of the sales pipeline, growth will grind to a halt.
Sustained growth requires focus. Merril Hoge, the former Steelers running back, once told a story that perfectly illustrates this concept. Hoge was terrified in his first training camp with Steelers coaching legend Chuck Noll. He noticed early on that if someone screwed up during camp, Coach Noll would blow the whistle, point the player into a white van, and then the white van would drive off. That player would never be seen on the Steelers’ practice field again.
On one play, Hoge found himself sprinting down the left side of the field while the rest of the play was happening on the right side. Coach Noll blew the whistle, looked right at Hoge, and shouted, “What are you doing?”
Nervous, pale, and sweaty, Hoge replied, “Nothing.”
“That’s the problem,” Coach Noll said. “If the wide receiver catches the ball and starts to run, you not doing something means you aren’t there to get a fumble or make a block. I didn’t bring you in to be average or to do nothing. I brought you here to be uncommon in your efforts.” Coach Noll wanted Hoge to treat every moment on the field as if it was the next big play, anticipating opportunities and committing his mind and body to push the ball forward.
As in football, being consistent in sales requires you to be uncommon in your efforts, regardless of the temptations you feel when business is going well or slowing down. When business is going well, we feel confident. We’re more likely to neglect our daily call quotas, attend fewer networking opportunities, and deprioritize our monthly emails to prospects and previous clients. We see similar trends when business slows down. As our leads begin to decline, we grow discouraged, which pushes us to stop making extra calls and going the extra mile. This attitude leads to a vicious downward spiral that we can only escape through uncommon effort.