Salespeople: Don’t Hope for Luck, Look for Leverage

Coins clinking out of a slot machine. The crowd cheering the winner of a marathon. A Sales VP announcing this year’s #1 salesperson. What do they all have in common? Chances are, they’re the sound of good news for someone other than you. Oh well, better luck next time!

We all know we shouldn’t be jealous of winners. Some people just have the luck! When WE win, we remember all the hard work and persistence involved. Some salespeople are bold enough to claim they make their own luck. And the debate rages on. High performing salespeople dismiss the influence of luck while others blame it. In reality, both sides miss the point. Random chance does exist. But, predicting or measuring it’s role in sales is pointless. Now is the time to move beyond the luck debate.

Instead of ignoring or blaming luck, seek to clarify it. What we often label as luck is often really something else. Leverage.

The key is to understand what luck (presented as leverage) we have and act accordingly. The umbrella salesman in a rain storm has leverage. The snow plow driver in Phoenix has none, unless there’s a freak snowstorm. Any time your customer is forced to solve a problem you have leverage. Using the pricing of an existing product, with a current customer, to win the sale of new one? Leverage. Convince a customer to buy now to avoid next month’s price increase? Leverage.

“We’ll get back to you.”, is a phrase that experienced sales people learn to translate to mean “NO” or “Not right now.” Otherwise, days waiting for their decision can stretch out into months. In non-leveraged selling, your greatest enemy is the do nothing scenario. You’ve just spent hours of your time preparing for and conducting meetings with your prospect The result? You’ve delivered a free and comprehensive summary of how to solve a business problem. A problem that can wait.

What do I do when I don’t have leverage?

You have two choices: create it or look for it. Proponents of the Challenger Mindset will tell you your role is to create leverage. Go out and find a reason for your customer to act.

Shock them. Scare them. Do something to shake your customer out of complacency. When done well, the customer thanks you at the end of the sale for helping them avoid disaster. When executed poorly, you look like yet another pushy salesman using fear to make a buck.

The easier option is to look for leverage. Know your product and potential customer so well that you can find prospects with problems you can solve. This learning process involves talking to current customers and even sales people. Get to know your product and industry a level deeper. Learn the signs and symptoms of a customer in pain and look for them.

As for luck? If your job or territory came with obvious leverage, congratulations! You’ve won the sales lottery. The rest of us have to work to find it. Yes, top performers are sometimes just plain lucky. But, let’s be clear about what they’re lucky for. Having the leverage. That’s luck. Recognizing and using the leverage they possess, that’s where the skill and hard work make the difference.

One final note on leverage. Don’t overplay it. When circumstances force a customer to act, don’t be the salesperson waiting to exploit their needs. No leverage exists forever. New competitors. New technology. Something will come along to take it away from you. Your customers will remember how you treated them.

In short, don’t ask whether or not you are lucky. Instead, look for the leverage waiting within your own territory. As they say in poker, “Play the hand you’re dealt!”



Ps. No. The universe is not required to hand out leverage equally, to all salespeople. Do the best to find and use what leverage you have. It could be that you need to work harder than another sales person in order to achieve the same results. Sorry. Therefore, never turn a blind eye to leverage in other sales positions. Use it as a key way to evaluate new sales positions. You won’t regret it!