“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
If we are honest with ourselves, we live and work at a time where real authenticity and accountability are painfully absent. Regardless of the profession, the ability to commit and sustain a high level of work performance has been on a constant and consistent decline for years. Far too many individuals are unwilling to accept their share of responsibility when deadlines or quotas are missed, instead blaming the economy, their customers and poor territories for their insufficient performance.
In many ways, the financial meltdown of 2008 is a direct reflection of this bad behavior. In every sector of our nation’s economy, fingers pointed elsewhere rather than where they deserved to be pointed. Rather than accept responsibility for taking advantage of the tax code, financial institutions pointed the finger at Congress and past Presidents for crafting the laws that empowered them to make shady financial decisions. Political parties threw each other under the proverbial bus for the disaster. Individuals looked to mortgage brokers and banks for “allowing” them to buy far more of a house than they really could afford. And real estate agents angrily looked at buyers and said, “Hey, you’re the one who signed off on it.” No one truly wants to accept their portion of the responsibility for their irresponsible behavior.
In the office, employees and employers alike point fingers at each other for the lack of acceptable performance. Employees rant about the extra work they’re expected to do with little to no increase in pay because of the decreased work force. Employers are frustrated with the productivity of their employees and their attitude. But they provide little incentive to their employees excel and fail to provide praise for good behavior. Neither is prepared to make the hard decision to make a career change because, for the employee, the job market is weak, and, for the employer, the labor market is weak. Is it any wonder that productivity suffers and the national confidence in the state of our economy is so poor?
It’s Time for Lions to Step Up
This brings me to the opening quote by Theodore Roosevelt. Life is intended to be lived inside the arena, but that comes with inherent risk. To step into the arena, you risk being bloodied and bruised. While you may not risk your life, you do risk failure. You risk humiliation. You risk embarrassment.
This is why the world needs lions. For, in the words of President Roosevelt, a real warrior, a real lion “spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
Ever since I was a young boy, I have always been transfixed on the image of a lion. I’ve always found the lion to be a transcendent figure. There are no animals in the jungle that rival the majesty of the lion. From how the lion carries itself to the marvelous mane he wears to the lack of any fear, the lion is an amazing animal.
Over the past thirty plus years of my sales career, I’ve found the lion to be a perfect analogy for the true sales champion. For those who truly succeed and dominate, there are many traits of the lion that apply to how we, as sales professionals, should behave in the market space in which we operate.
The roar of a lion is unmistakable. Even from a distance, the roar of a lion strikes fear into the hearts of men and animals alike. Whether the roar is one of warning or an announcement of his presence really doesn’t matter. What does matter is that you respond accordingly.
Like a lion, a true sales champion’s presence in the market space sends a certain message to all others that a champion is present. While it isn’t intended as a warning, others tend to understand that the presence of sales champion means deals will be lost and less suitable sales professionals need to spruce up their resumes for another career in another area.
The Unmistakable Look
The lion is the only member of the large cat family that possesses a large mane. Matched only by the severity of the sound of his roar, the mane provides an intimidating aura to the look of a lion. Setting his face in what appears to be a crown, the lion has earned his reputation as “the king of the jungle” for as much of how he looks as for how he rules his kingdom.
In days past, a true sales champion was recognizable. He wore his or her suit in such a way that their look distinguishes them from the rest of the market place as a true professional. Today, the look of a true sales champion – a lion – is once again needed. The marketplace needs leaders who look like leaders, not individuals who are so concerned with fitting in that they dress down to dress the part.
A lion is fearless in his mission. Regardless the size of the other animal, a lion will attack. Lions have been known to kill other animals weighing as much as 1,000 pounds making them very dangerous to their surroundings.
Like a lion, true sales champions see anyone who seeks to compete as a threat to their survival. Every deal closed where the champion was not the victor is seen for what it really is – it’s food off their family’s table, it is lost recognition, it is a lost customer, it is representative of a war wound that the champion would rather never experience again. To combat this, the champion fights on. In spite of the company size or reputation of the competitive company, the champion takes them on in such a way that the competition feels like they’re not in a fair fight. In spite of their size and financial wherewithal, the competitor limps away feeling weak and lost. In fact, the true sign of a champion is when the competition sells out to him or leaves the market altogether.
Roar like You Mean It!
The book I am completing is intended to provide a clarion call to all real leaders. If you are in sales, this book is specifically intended for you because our profession needs the real lions to return. We need individuals who proudly wear the lion’s mane and profess their ownership of their territory. The sales profession is in desperate need of men and women who are prepared to tenaciously fight for the business in an ethical and moral way, but in a way that demoralizes the competition. Most of all, real sales lions bring such a sense of integrity to the profession that the pride of being called “salesman” or “saleswoman” is a badge of honor, not a disgrace.
This book is also intended for everyone not in the “sales profession” as well. If we’re honest with each other, we all are in sales in some capacity. Whether you are selling your boss on a raise or interviewing for a new job; that is selling. If you are working with a team of people to achieve a common outcome, any encouragement and motivation you provide is, in fact, selling. Even parents, when we are challenging our children to achieve good grades at school as well as to take the trash outside, we’re selling.
In the jungle, the lion understand that if you’re not conquering, you’re being conquered. In sales, if you’re not selling, you’re being sold. Live or die; the choice is yours. Whether we’re discussing this metaphorically or as a practical purpose, we all must choose to live or die, move forward or slide backwards. But to stay in the middle is not an option. Frankly it’s never been an option and yet, here we are, struggling with mediocrity and average behavior, average performance. It’s time to put a massive paw print down in the ground, dig in, and roar like we’ve never roared before.
It’s time to roar like we really mean it!