History is the greatest teacher. Specifically in business, learning from
our personal and corporate history is essential. That is why recruiters
want to see a resume and smart ones have it in front of them when
they are interviewing.
History is particularly helpful when used in its immediate aftermath.
While I was President of Buxton, our sales team had the reputation of
being the best presenters in the Retail Customer Analytics marketplace.
We earned that reputation for two reasons. First, Tom Buxton,
founder, was the consummate presenter. He knew the importance of
storytelling. Every presentation had to be like a Broadway show with
an exciting beginning, a great story, and a fabulous ending. I cannot tell
you how many times I heard Tom talk about this.
The second reason may have been more important than the first. We
got into the habit of asking two questions: 1) What did we do right? 2)
What did we do wrong? Now these questions were not just plaudits
looking for attaboys. These were serious questions. If we could not
come up with anything wrong, it was deemed that we were not paying
attention. One time we went with Tom to see a potential client. In the
parking lot after the presentation, we asked the two questions. Tom
was quick to say he was not prepared. He thought he knew the
situation so well that he did not have to prepare. Fortunately, another
team member saved the day and we earned the business; a lesson not
lost on any of the three of us. I never again witnessed Tom not being
So, each time we went on a presentation our skill sets were honed. We
became great at asking questions of the prospect to gain their point of
view. We became great at taking that POV and using our tools to solve
their problems. And we became great at either asking a closing
question or putting ourselves in a position to assume the sale.
I share this with you not to brag about our skill sets (OK, a little) but to
encourage you to ask the same two questions every time you go on a
sales call with someone else. When you put yourself out there and
allow yourself to be constructively criticized, you will build a better
sales team and a more successful company.
Rich Hollander is a retail expert with over 40 years in the industry.