November 22, 2015


I've often been asked by people how to be more successful in sales, get the results they see their peers or other successful people in their industry achieve. Invariably most of these people fail, some achieve short-term success and often they fall back into the usual results they achieved because they couldn’t operate like the person they wanted to copy.

So why does this happen? Why is it hard to copy how successful people do things and why can’t we simply implement what they do? I see many people including self-help gurus talk about modelling successful people, copying their blueprint for success and then they teach this blueprint for success. The problem is there are a number of reasons why it doesn't work. If it did work all the time, there would be successful people everywhere; everyone would be making money, driving fancy cars, living in big houses and going on fancy holidays. Numerous books have been written on the subject and numerous people sell a “quick-fix” idea. People are sold in the dream they want to believe; they want a quick answer to their problems. I am afraid quick fixes don't exist.

A very good example is the recent Rugby World Cup won by the All Blacks as they were expected to. Interestingly, most of the top nations have New Zealand coaches - Scotland, Ireland and Wales - in an effort to copy the All Blacks’ culture and how they play. In fact in a recent article Stuart Barnes was quoted saying that the English need to raid NZ to find coaches to help them get out of their problems. The reality is this has a limited chance of happening. Why is this not possible? Because the environment that people are brought up in has an incredible influence on who they become as people. How you behave and the actions you take, all of it influences and shapes you. When they get into playing rugby in NZ, the first thing boys see is a Rugby ball and the All Blacks on TV; it’s in their DNA. They don’t see a soccer ball, they don’t aspire to join Manchester United or Barcelona. Take this further, when a boy starts to play rugby in New Zealand, he gets used to playing in all kinds of conditions. In fact the conditions can change within half an hour from rain to hail to sunshine to extreme wind or even snow, the grounds they play on can be deep in mud. Contrast that to Australian conditions - the moment it starts to rain and the ground looks like it may get waterlogged, they cancel the game. This rarely happens in New Zealand where the young boy develops the ability to play and adapt in all types of weather conditions. The style of play that is encouraged in New Zealand is very much free expression; play the ball in front of you. The environment that shapes the individual, the heritage, the pride in the jersey, the role models… all play significant parts in shaping the identity of this child. This is one of the reasons why the Robbie Deans experiment did not work in Australia, where he was trying to instill this philosophy within the Wallabies.

The New Zealand coaches are attempting to teach this culture to other nations. NZ is a single sport nation, very much like Brazil. Think about some of the incredible talent coming out of South America. The boys coming out of the favelas in Brazil have amazing skills that the European clubs pay big dollars for. The other thing these clubs pay for is the desperation these players have to leave the tough conditions. Once again the environment has played a significant role.

Coming back to sales, when you look at successful individuals, think about their life; where they were growing up, how they have progressed to be at this stage where they are right now. How do you think the environment has shaped them? What was different about their environment compared to yours? For example, did they have parents who mentored them or have teachers who supported them? How do you think they handled adversity? We frequently hear stories about successful people but we only hear the good stuff.

However, the environment, if it was not helpful to you, does not need to define you. But you need to be aware of its influence and recognise that making change is challenging but not impossible. It requires a conscious effort to change and if you can find supportive managers or a mentor, it will help.

Start to learn to reflect on your life and start to look for the lessons: What could it mean? What could I do? What can I change?

A successful salesperson will not only apply these questions to him/herself, but also to his clients and prospects.

Speaking of the All Blacks, I would like to pay respects to one of the greatest All Black wingers, Jonah Lomu, who passed away recently. Not only was he a great sportsman but also a person whom the world admired for his ability and humility off the pitch. He will surely be missed around the world.