The ONE Thing You Need to Succeed

June 28, 2012 by  Filed under: Sales 

My 11-year old son is an avid soccer goalkeeper. I’ve noticed a pattern with him and the other players on his team that is similar to what I see with salespeople in business. Specifically, each player is often trying to convince their parents that they need one thing that will make them better than their opponent. It might be a special pair of shoes, or different holders for shin guards. In my son’s case, he needed professional caliber goalkeeper gloves. In fact, he made a pretty compelling argument that he needed these gloves in order to attain ANY level of success. He explained that the reason he was not catching the balls as well as he would have liked was the lack of these gloves. Without them, he argued, he would not be able to succeed.

Being a sucker, I ran out and purchased the top-of-the-line gloves in his size. He was thrilled. He used them, cared for them, but candidly I did not see a big difference in his game. He then left for three weeks of camp where he would be playing soccer for several hours each day. But, he forgot to pack his gloves. His first letter home from camp expressed his concern that he did not have his gloves. My wife and I agreed that if he sent a second note, we’d ship him the gloves. It turns out he was having so much fun at camp that we did not receive another letter during his time at camp (a subject for another article – probably written by my wife).

When we picked him up from camp at the conclusion of his session, I was ready to hear from him how terrible it was not having his gloves, and how without them, he failed. When I asked how it went without the gloves he said “I can catch the ball much better now. Without the gloves, I had to pay more attention to the ball. Now, I don’t drop anything. I think the problem before was those bulky gloves.”

Salespeople often bring management their own list of “goalkeeper gloves.” They argue that they need a particular feature, marketing piece, or other resource in order to succeed. They make compelling arguments that without them, they cannot succeed. But, how often when you provide that feature or resource, does another item magically show up on the list that now becomes the new impediment to success? I call it shiny object syndrome (SOS). Just like SOS, it is a cry for help. In nearly every case, these are simply excuses. Just like my son’s goalkeeper gloves, even if they are convinced they absolutely need them, they might actually learn how to succeed and thrive without them. Don’t make the same mistake I did by running out and getting your team the latest shiny object on their list.

My son has learned to take responsibility for his play, rather than find excuses. Now, if he lets in a goal, he discusses what HE could do to be in a better position to do better the next time. My son is only eleven, but he has quickly learned that the biggest way he can improve his performance is to work on the fundamental skills and beliefs that shape his outcomes – not excuses, new shoes or gloves. Don’t get me wrong, as an eleven-year-old he still wants new shoes and gloves, but he realizes they are not required to succeed.

What are the base fundamentals your team should target to turn the process upside down? Do they know with certainty how to target the right prospects? Do they have the skills to uncover the underlying issues that your business can successfully solve? Do they know how to overcome the need for shiny objects? Do they invest time practicing so that when the opportunity presents itself, they can make the big diving save?

Please share your favorite “shiny object syndrome” story.

About the Author

Ian Altman is a speaker, author, and strategic adviser on sales and business development. Author of a #1 Amazon Best Seller,Upside-Down Selling, Ian helps executives discover how to flip traditional sales on its ear to grow revenue. Discover how to become outrageously successful targeting and winning business. You can subscribe to his blog and learn more at

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