Thursday, January 29, 2009

Lessons in Preparedness

Art Sobczak wrote this last week:

Don't Experience a Slip-Up Like Obama's


Perhaps you by now have seen the video of
President Obama being sworn in, and the
slight slip-up by Supreme Court Justice
John Roberts, which in turn caused Obama
to have to restate the lines, and then they
subsequently repeated the entire process
in private.

What really bothers me is how Roberts is
being portrayed in this matter. On the
Today Show just this morning they were
calling it the "Oaf of Office." You've got to
be kidding me.

I'm sure there are people laughing at him
who could name past American Idol winners
but who could not have previously identified
John Roberts or named the Chief Justice of
the Supreme Court if their life depended on it.

It's especially maddening because Roberts
was totally prepared for the oath, and did not
work from notes, as most other Justices have
in the past. And, Roberts is known for his level
of preparation.

I've done a couple of articles on John Roberts,
and related them to sales. I've combined them
and will share that with you.

Prepare Like a Supreme Court Chief Justice
You don't get to be a top sales rep by winging it.

Or, a Supreme Court Chief Justice, for that matter.

At his Senate confirmation hearings a few years ago,
sitting before a mostly-adversarial group of Senators
who were trying to blow holes in his background,
character, and especially conservative viewpoints,
John Roberts was unflappable.

Cool, calm, with answers direct, to the point, and
bullet-proof. He soared through the confirmation

What really was impressive is that he sat at
the table, looking up at his interrogators and had
in front of him...NOTHING! No notes. No cards.
No prompts.

I was amazed. Of course I knew that this type of
performance does not occur by accident. I know
that preparation makes things look easy. So I did
little research on Judge Roberts.

Before he became a District Judge, John Roberts
the attorney specialized primarily in arguing cases
before the Supreme Court. Which would be like a
baseball pitcher specializing in pitching only in the
World Series.

Oh, and he won 25 of his 39 cases.

He is good, because he prepares. According to
a Newsweek article, colleagues at his law firm
said he would race around the firm with a white
legal pad, jotting down questions he might be
asked, and then answering them.

A fellow attorney said, "He'd have it with him at
the office, and he'd bring it home at night."

He'd amass 300 questions and answers for a
case, then stage moot-court sessions to rehearse.

His performances were a sight to behold. Another
attorney said, "If we heard Roberts was going to be
arguing, we'd go down to watch. He was that good.
It was like if Tiger Woods was hitting balls at your
club, you'd want to watch him too."

And every top sales rep I've ever seen does something
similar in his/her profession. Do you?

Here are some areas where you can and should.

Screeners and Gatekeepers
Can you instantly provide a response to the question,
"What is this in reference to?"? And I mean a good,
results-oriented answer, not one that gets you screened

The Tough Questions
Ever hear, "I don't believe I'm interested," at the
beginning of a call? Are you able to breeze past this
reflex response--which isn't a real objection, by the
way--and engage them in conversation, moving them to
a state of interest and curiosity?

Unexpected Answers to Questions
We're all able to build sales momentum when they
follow the script we'd like ... answering questions
with the positive, interest-filled responses that
lead to our objective. But what about the ones we
DON'T want? The ones that resemble a hard-drive
crash, wiping away all of your memory.

Real Objections
Too many sales reps dread objections because they
feel that to deal with them they must "overcome"
them with a canned, argumentative answer. Those
types of "rebuttals" actually throw gasoline on
the fire. Instead, we must be prepared with

In each of these areas, I recommend the same
prescription for excellence: work and preparation.

There's no easy way to sound smooth.

A sales rep told me at a recent training seminar,

"You make it look so easy, coming up with quick
answers. How do you do it?"

Oh, it was easy, I told him. After 25 years, over
1000 sales training presentations, thousands of my
own sales calls, and thousands of hours of writing,
reading, and practicing, it just comes naturally.

C'mon, no one is naturally smooth.

Although almost everyone can sound that way.

But we must be un-smooth and uncomfortable first.

Before you can golf in the 80's, you go through
the 90's.

If you want to raise yourself to the next level,
go back to the basics and beyond.


Lock yourself in a room with a pad of paper. Begin
by writing out difficult situations you encounter.
Use the ones I mentioned above. Then, stretch, knead,
and rack your mind until you create word-for-word
responses and questions you're comfortable with.
(Doing this with a small group works well too.)

Then, go to the next level. Like a military strategist
preparing for all possible scenarios, brainstorm for
their possible responses.

Keep repeating the process.

Then practice it out loud. Role play with a partner.

Recite--don't read--into a tape recorder.

What's great about this is that the more you do this,
the better you become, which means better results. Which
means you have more fun on calls. Which also means you're
more confident on your calls.

And people will be saying about you, "You sound so
smooth! You're a natural."

Or, "You could be a Supreme Court chief Justice!"

"To be prepared is to have no anxiety."
Korean proverb

"Chance favors the prepared mind."
Louis Pasteur

"Luck is when preparedness meets opportunity."
(attributed to many)

Art Sobczak, President, Business By Phone Inc. 13254 Stevens St.,
Omaha, NE 68137,
(402) 895-9399. Or,

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