I've always gleaned real value from other people's insights, especially when they aren't in sales. Quotations bring things out of my own sales-centric world and provide me with the potential of seeing things from a truly different perspective.
Over the years I've collected many quotations that I've used in my writing, speaking, and coaching. Here are a few of my favorites:
1. "Denial ain't just a river in Egypt." (Mark Twain.) Salespeople and their managers are optimistic by nature, and denial is a common liability.
2. "You can't handle the truth!" (From the movie "A Few Good Men"). Although sales trainers have been discussing the importance of qualification for a century, too many salespeople don't ask the tough questions—simply because they don't want to hear the answers.
3. "We don't see things as they are, we see things as we are." (J. M. Barrie) The ability to see things objectively is an important competency for salespeople. This relates to the issues of truth and denial.
4. "Opportunity may knock only once, but temptation leans on the doorbell." (Unattributed.) Another qualification-related quotation I've used again and again.
5. "Tell your customer the truth before your competitor exaggerates it." (Unattributed.) An underemployed competitive tactic. It's amazing how many salespeople wait until their competitor negative sells and then complain about what happened afterward.
6. "Nothing is as exhilarating as to be shot at without result." (Winston Churchill.) Of course this exhilaration isn't possible without a comprehensive understanding of how your competitor sells. Having spent years as a competitive sales strategist, I can report this quotation has raised the level of consciousness about competing for many salespeople I've coached.
7. "Some people are so far behind in the race, they believe they are leading." (Uncle Junior on "The Sopranos.") Again, I've used this to drive a sense of competitive situational awareness.
8. "It's not the strongest of the species that will survive, nor the most intelligent, but the ones most responsive to change." (Charles Darwin.) This relates to some of the most important competencies for a salesperson: flexibility, agility, and adaptability.
9. "The definition of a brand is something people will pay extra for, even if the product or service is identical to a competitor." (Geoffrey Colvin.) I use this quotation whenever I talk with salespeople about building and leveraging their personal brand. Even—or perhaps, especially—during these challenging economic times, there is personal brand equity.
10. "Virtually all of my questions at the trial, and most of my tactics and techniques, are aimed at enabling me to make arguments I've already determined I want to make. In fact, before the first witness at a trial has even been called, I've usually prepared my summation to the jury." (Vincent Bugliosi, former Los Angeles prosecutor.) A long quotation, but one providing a perfect description of the mechanics behind strategic sales planning.
11. "It's not the plan that is important, it's the planning." (Dr. Graeme Edwards.) This is for salespeople who complain about recording their plan to win a piece of business. A powerful piece of advice.
12. "Your ears will out-earn your mouth." (Unattributed; I first heard this from Jim Meisenheimer.)
All wise words, indeed.
Dave Stein is the author of "How Winners Sell" and CEO and founder of ES Research Group in West Tisbury, MA. In addition, he delivers keynote speeches and workshops on sales performance.