How a VP of Sales Exceeds Expectations Year After Year With One Easy Question

Published on August 22, 2009

Fifteen years ago I was sitting on a plane next to my client, Bud Howard, who was then the Vice President of Sales for Hertz Equipment Rental Corp (division of Hertz). We were in the middle of a three city tour which he hired me to keynote his national sales meetings. It was one of those moments where we were just exhausted, sitting quietly and getting our second wind when Bud leaned over to me and asked a question that rocked my world.

He asked “Ron, what do you think is most important, the will to win or the will to prepare”? It was one of those philosophical questions that caught me by surprise and got me thinking. The first thought was how we are always consumed with the concept of winning. Yet when I got through that initial and automatic reaction, it dawned on me that no matter how much you want to win, if you are not prepared to do what it takes to win the game, you will not succeed no matter how much you want to win. Yes, passion and determination are crucial to winning. But if you only feel the passion and determination during the game and not before, you will often come up short. You need to be driven by your passion and determination to do whatever it takes to get yourself ready for the game and positioned properly for victory.

Knowing that most leaders are consumed with winning, I wondered how Bud was going to react to my answer. His response was the same answer as mine. The Will to Prepare is more important than The Will To Win! It was not surprising to hear Bud’s answer as he lead a team that year after year grew sales revenues and profits in the double digits and most often knew by March whether or not they were going to exceed their expectations that year.  Since leaving Hertz, Bud has used this same philosophy to consistenty deliver great results and exceed expectations.

You can see this philosophy take hold in other areas of society. In baseball, spring training used to be the time for players to start their conditioning after a period of complete time off, even from physical conditioning. Today, players come to spring training in shape ready to compete. As I write this article, pro football is starting its slate of exhibition games. Again, players come to training camp already in shape. Football today is a year round sport. You have the regular season, and then you have the off season conditioning programs which no player in their right minds will miss if they expect to earn significant money. Even in high school sports. Kids today don’t wait for tryouts to start their quest for making a team. They participate in off season camps to learn techniques and improve their skills.

Why is this need to prepare so prevalent in society today? Simply because the competition is intense and showing up for the game is no longer good enough. There is an expectation that you come prepared to compete. How does this relate to business?

Employees always depended on their employers to provide programs that would get them in shape to succeed in business. As with sports, there is a fundamental shift happening. If you are waiting for your employer to provide programs to get you in shape, then you are in effect obsolete. Being in shape skill wise is often today a precursor for even being considered a viable candidate. Yet not enough people accept that responsibility. Successful entrepreneurs accept this responsibility as a condition of their success. In fact this is what separates them from those who attempt to build a business and do not succeed.

The same holds true for sales professionals and rain makers of professional services. Gone are the days where we can “practice on our customers”. Today, if you want to close that deal, you better have practiced before the sales call and come prepared with your best stuff. It’s Game On!

Two weeks ago after reading read my latest book Lead, Sell or Get Out of the Way, a Director of Business Development called to inquire about coaching services. When I asked him how much of the fee was going to be reimbursed by his employer, he replied that he was going to pay for it himself. His belief was he should invest up to 10% of his earnings in his own personal development. It was his responsibility. And this was coming from a top producer!

Is it any wonder why the top athletes, CEO’s, top producers of any kind, often have a coach? I even have a coach. Coaches have their own coaches so they are prepared to better assist others. Whether you call them coaches or mentors, we all rely on others to help us keep our skills strong and improve our preparation for the game.

Bottom line! Whether or not you use a coach or not, you need to prepare for the opportunities in life that come your way. This goes for a sales call, a project at work or the game of life. Showing up for the game today is not good enough. Today, the entrance fee just for the privilege of competing is showing up prepared.

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