In the movie, The Program, running back Darnell Jefferson (played by Omar Epps) takes a big hit and lay on the ground as his coach (played by the great James Caan) asked him, “Are you injured or are you hurt?” The player does not understand, so the coach explains, “If you’re hurt, you can still play, but if you’re injured, you can’t.”
When times are tough, and you are experiencing a soft market, low closing ratio, a high attrition rate and nothing seems to be working – are you in a slump (hurt) or have you lost the fire (injured)?”
I’ve unfortunately seen it a few times in my career where a seller will build up a great book of business over a several year period, experience a big drop-off due to unforeseen circumstances, and then never be able to get it back. They had all the fire and energy while everything was going well and new business was increasing, they were growing existing clients, getting referrals from people and even getting a bit lucky on a few agency buys. Then, the auto market was down, the gambling website money became illegal and the local sports teams weren’t in the playoffs every year and, all of a sudden, their belief in themselves as a seller, the products they were selling, or both, went away, never to return again.
Other times, I’ve seen sellers whose confidence never wavers. In good times and in bad times they were always positive, always thinking the next good sale is right around the corner. You knew they were disappointed when things didn’t go well or when money dried up, but their customers and prospects would never have been able to tell anything was different. Their passion and energy for what they were presenting never wavered.
Everything starts with belief in yourself. Whenever I am faced with managing a seller I see in a slump or losing a bit of the fire, I always start with having them look at the “playbook,” and talk through where the problems may lie. If the funnel is weak, it’s typically a prospecting or cold-calling issue, which comes down to effort. If the funnel is strong, but the billing is weak, it’s typically a presenting or closing issue and that can be seen first-hand by the manager going on the next several presenting and closing calls. If attrition is the problem, it’s typically a service issue involving copy, schedule and follow up.
Determine where the problem is and that can help everyone identify solutions. Now, if the seller is truly in a slump and has not given up on themselves or what they are selling, the process can begin to build the overall billing and book of business back up.
But, as the coach said to the running back, “if you’re injured you can’t (play),” and if you’ve injured your own psyche about selling, selling media or the specific products you represent, then you can’t continue. No matter the steps you take in identifying ways to fix it, the self-belief and passion for what you are doing absolutely has to come first.
So, next time you are down, ask yourself “am I injured or am I hurt?” If that fire is still there, then rub a little dirt on it and get back to the playbook and start making some more plays!