At one of my consulting workshops, I kicked off the first morning by greeting each salesperson by name. They all replied with the same good cheer.
All but one.
Instead of saying hello, Linda was quick to make excuses as to why she wasn’t having any luck with the previous day’s assignments.
“The prospects are terrible,” she said. “They don’t buy.”
The second morning it was the same thing.
“Good morning,” I called out. “What a grand day!”
But it was never a grand day for Linda.
“My leads are NQ’s!” she hissed. (NQ is short for Not Qualified).
Who does that, I wondered. Who blames everyone and everything but themselves for their lack of sales?
Actually, a lot of people do. Many real estate pros blame external circumstances for their lack of success. But when we do this we erode our own power.
We’ve all met chronic blamers—reactive people who limit their ability to take control of their lives. Reactive salespeople are easy to spot. They use phrases such as:
• I can’t help it.
• They didn’t have the money.
• It’s marketing’s fault.
• I don’t have the time.
• I never get any support.
Often chronic blamers are fearful about their job security—and for good reason. Take Linda. Her organization had over five hundred salespeople who all worked together at the same office. Every month they had awards for the top three salespeople. Linda had never been close to the top—in fact, she was always in the bottom ten.
But an interesting thing happened over the course of the seminar. The techniques I was sharing resonated with Linda and, just two weeks later, she went from number 125 on her team to number 2. Around the time the awards were announced, I noticed Linda in the back of the room on a little brown chair, writing feverishly on a yellow pad.
I asked her what she was doing.
“Writing my speech,” she said. “I’m going to share with everyone what I did to win the number two slot.”
I congratulated Linda for improving her sales record, but I also told her what I tell real estate salespeople all over the world: We can’t take the glory for being great if we won’t take the responsibility when we’re not.
Remember, Linda wasn’t blaming herself for being number 125—she was blaming the everyone else. So while I was thrilled to congratulate her for her victory, I warned her that she needed to be equally willing to take responsibility the next time customers weren’t buying.
Top salespeople never blame external factors for their lack of success. They know that even as a veteran, you can go from having a great month to one where you can’t give away a home. You try everything, but you can’t even talk your dog into going for a walk. As Eric Greitens writes in his book Resilience, “While fear can be your friend, excuses are almost always your enemy. Faced with a choice between hard action and easy excuses people often choose the excuse….Excellence is difficult. An excuse is seductive.”
People who sell from the heart never blame external factors for their lack of success. They hold themselves accountable and, as a result, they consistently improve.
You can have the greatest sales system in the world, but if you won’t take responsibility for your own success, in the end, it won’t matter. You can start to take more responsibility immediately by changing your self-talk and the questions you ask yourself. Consider the following alternatives to some old standby excuses:
• “They didn’t have the money.” Instead, think about where you could have improved. For example, “I didn’t show them the value. Did I find a problem? Was it big enough?”
• “They’re indecisive.” Maybe, but what could you have done differently? “I didn’t make enough of a connection. What else could I have done to build trust?”
• “Someone found them a better deal.” Instead of blaming your competitors, keep your focus on you. “I didn’t differentiate my listing. What are the powerful statements I could have used to better differentiate my listing?”
Despite years of training myself to take responsibility, I still find myself asking accusatory questions like “Who took my car keys?” or “Who left the milk out?” My default mechanism is often blame. I sometimes think that’s why I seek advice from so may people when I’m going through rough times. That way if the advice doesn’t pan out, I can abdicate responsibility. I’m not proud of this, but I am certainly aware of it.
The truth is: it’s easier to blame than it is to accept criticism. Here’s how to catch yourself in the act. If someone asks you why something went wrong, do you start a sentence with the words “He,” “She,” or “They”? The very use of those words suggests that someone else somewhere else is in control. The sales gods must be against you!
As soon as you say “I” you’ve taken back control for your failures—and your successes.