Tim Huffaker 2017Even as a relatively young and inexperienced salesperson, there were rarely any major principles of selling that I overlooked.  

Like most other salespeople, I could clearly see the big picture. Where I struggled, again similarly to my peers, was finding focus on the small details that so often made a huge difference in the outcome of my efforts.  To clarify this point, in my sales training I often use the example of cold water and ice. The difference in temperature could be less than one ridiculously “insignificant” degree. Now, if I were to pour a five-gallon bucket of very cold water (33 degrees) onto your head from the top of a ten-foot ladder, the result would be that you would be very wet and very cold.  I better be able to run fast! If I took that same five-gallon bucket of water and reduced the temperature by one “meaningless” degree, it would now be a five-gallon block of ice. If I were to pour that block of ice onto your head from my ten-foot ladder, the result would be death. One degree in temperature would be the difference between wet and dead.

Similarly in sales, most salespeople apply the correct principles, but their application or timing might be slightly skewed, thus altering the result even though they were ninety-nine percent correct.  The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again hoping for a different result. Sometimes as salespeople, we find ourselves on a parallel course with insanity. If what you are doing doesn’t deliver the result you are seeking, evaluate your performance and make an ever so slight adjustment.  It might be the difference in your choice of a single word. The difference might be a pause. It might be your timing in taking action. It might be as simple as asking a question instead of making a statement. Determine the result you are after and then “dial in” your actions until you achieve the desired result.

Here is an oft-told story, that while not entirely true, puts this principle into perspective.  Small things do have a profound impact not only in sales, but also in the world. Selling, as in life, will always be more about the small and seeming insignificant details than in the larger overshadowing events.

One day, in the countryside of Scotland, a common and poor farmer was toiling in his field when suddenly he heard a cry for help. Startled, he recognized someone was in trouble and the plea was coming from a nearby bog. Immediately, he dropped what he was doing and ran to the source of the plea. When he located the voice calling for help, he stumbled upon a terrified boy up to his waist in black muck, screaming and sinking deeper and deeper into the bog as each minute passed.  The farmer calmly retrieved ropes from nearby, pulled the boy out of the bog and saved his life.

The next day, an elegantly dressed nobleman arrived at the farmer’s small and simple home. When the nobleman stepped out of his carriage, he introduced himself as the father of the boy the farmer had saved.  Emotionally, the nobleman thanked the farmer and asked to repay the farmer for saving his son’s life. The farmer waved off the offer and informed the nobleman he could not accept payment for doing what was right.   

At that moment the nobleman asked if the farmer had a son, in which the farmer replied he did. Subsequently, the nobleman insisted he provide the farmer’s son an education on par with that he would provide his own son. Upon leaving the farmers house, the nobleman told the farmer, “If the lad is anything like his father, he’ll no doubt grow to be a man we both will be proud of.”

The nobleman’s prediction concerning the farmer’s son proved to be prophetic.  True to the nobleman’s word, the farmer’s son attended the best schools in the world and eventually graduated from St. Mary’s Hospital Medical School in London. More importantly, he went on to become known throughout the world as the noted Sir Alexander Fleming, the discoverer of penicillin.

Years afterward, the same nobleman’s son who was saved from the bog was stricken with pneumonia.  What saved his life this time? Penicillin. Who was the nobleman? His name was Lord Randolph Churchill.  What was his son’s name? Sir Winston Churchill.