Perhaps you saw the interview on Fox News. Or, maybe you have heard or seen the fuss about it since on radio and TV news shows. I'm talking about former President Bill Clinton being interviewed by Chris Wallace.
The rules for the interview were that Wallace could spend 15 minutes talking about Mr. Clinton's recent Clinton Global Initiative where he raised over 7 billion dollars, and 15 minutes on anything else he wanted to. Wallace had planned on mixing up the questions and his third question was about Clinton possibly not doing more to put Al-Qaeda out of business in 1993.
Well, that set Bill off into impassioned, rambling response that at times included finger-wagging, a conspiracy theory, and personal accusations, including one about how Wallace was doing a "conservative hit job." Clearly he was flustered, and did not portray the cool, slick, charismatic personality that is known for. I'm not here to talk about the politics of this encounter. There is a sales lesson here.
Bill had never been on Fox News Sunday in its 10-year history. I don't blame him. Fox of course is known for its conservative point of view.
But, after agreeing to this interview, and knowing that 15 minutes was fair game for anything, he of all people should have been prepared to field some missiles tossed at him.
After all, here's a guy who probably has been in more potentially-adversarial interview situations than anyone in history. And he usually pulled them off pretty well.Yet, this time, he let a legitimate question send him off on a rant.
Of course he should have been better-prepared to handle that question in his typically-smiling manner. And we should be prepared to handle what is thrown at us on our sales calls.
If you're new to sales and using the phone in the process, you'll encounter situations that will turn your tongue to warm jelly. Some prospects might say things to you that would reduce mere mortals (non-salespeople) to topsoil.
If you're experienced, you've been there, like I have. Maybe you still visit there occasionally, but hopefully not often.
The keys to success are,
1. learning from each experience, and then DOING something to ensure you correct what went wrong, and,
2. preparing, so as to prevent possible negative scenarios
Let's focus on the preparedness.
"Winging it" on the phone and generally being unprepared usually yields horrible results. It's quite simple, in theory, to get to the point where you sound smooth on calls. It is work, though. It's preparing for what you'll say, editing, practicing, fine-tuning. But yet, why do some salespeople insist on diving blindly into a call, and puking all over themselves with the first words that come to mind?
Would a surgeon walk into an operating room, slap on the gloves and say, "OK, give me the knife. By the way, what are we doing with this guy?"
Would a lawyer dash into a trial, pop open a briefcase, begin an opening argument, then turn and whisper to the client, "What are we working on here again?"
Would an ex-president, go into a potentially tough interview situation on national TV and...oh, never mind that one.
Yet I see, hear, and experience sales calls every day where the callers do something similar.
My all-time hero is Aristotle Onassis. Anyone who knows me knows I have a big Onassis collection. I don’t think there is a book, tape or picture I haven’t got. One of the most fascinating things I read about him came from the Captain of Onassis’ yacht, The Christina.
He said that many nights, Onassis would pace around the decks and in his study arguing and talking and shouting... at himself.
He was rehearsing a Q&A session in a meeting he was going to have next day and he answered the questions he knew they would ask him. Whats more he did it in various styles, passive, angry, funny, violently...just to condition himself against the onslaught.
Then he answered them in various ways and when, and only when, he was certain he had covered all the angles, he went into battle.
People used to go to the meetings with a retinue of assistants. Onassis went alone. He held his ground on his own. He was the business. The business was him. He was prepared. He had the world in his hands and didn’t let go...or drop it.
Do it, don’t try it, do it! And people will be saying about you, "You sound so smooth! You sound so confident. You're a natural."