Hero image of Brian McCauley, ProSales columnist

I am going to a seemingly peculiar source of inspiration for this sales column. In 1990, a song was released by a gentleman named Robert Van Winkle that eventually reached international acclaim. Trying to break into the rap music business with a name like Van Winkle would have been nearly impossible, so Robert needed a good stage name. Now, unless you’re a die-hard fan of his, you have no idea who I’m talking about. The rest of us know him as “Vanilla Ice” and the song is “Ice Ice Baby.” The first verse goes “All right, stop - collaborate and listen - Ice is back with a brand-new invention” and in that verse are three words that represent solid advice to salespeople: Stop; Collaborate; Listen.

Stop: Salespeople, for the most part, love to talk. That’s not really a bad thing…unless you’re talking too much. Many times, we speak without really thinking about what’s being said. Slow down your mental clock and pause a few seconds before interjecting or responding to something that’s just been said. Sales can be a highly charged emotional profession. You are emotionally tied to your business. It’s sometimes difficult not to take rejection personally, and you know that commission dollars earned or lost are very important. These highly charged situations often compel salespeople to jump in with comments and solutions, or defend their position when that’s not really called for. I was recently involved in a strategic meeting where the leader of the group challenged what was being discussed. Another person quickly jumped in to defend a position without giving enough consideration to the challenge being put forth by the leader. This bogged the conversation down and gave rise to many other “one off” conversations which created some non-productive meeting time. I bet that sounds all too familiar for many of you attending meetings internally with your company. What this leader was attempting to do was to get everybody to consider another point of view, which could lead us to more productive discussions and results. What was being sought was a different approach, or way of thinking, which brings us to the second word of advice.

Collaborate: Webster’s Dictionary provides two definitions for the word collaborate. One is to work jointly with others or together and the second is to cooperate with an agency with which one is not immediately connected. The first one can apply to dealings with your internal customers and the other applies to your external customers. A team’s ability to work together internally to develop sound strategies, objectives, tactics, and increase their ability to execute on those strategies is highly dependent upon that team’s ability to collaborate. A salesperson’s ability to work with their customers and prospects in a cooperative fashion to help both their businesses grow depends on your ability to collaborate. Focus, patience, and empathy will assist you in collaborating with your team members as well as customers and prospects.

Listen: Stop and listen are closely tied together and a person’s willingness and desire to improve in these areas will have greatly determine an individual’s ability to collaborate. Stephen Covey is quoted as saying “Listen with the intent to understand, not the intent to reply.” This is both incredibly difficult and incredibly powerful. All too often people listen to others while simultaneously forming their responses in their mind, or quickly attach assumptions to the other person’s messages, which both hinder the ability to fully understand and communicate. Resist the urge to jump in when communicating with others…stop…slow down and make an extra effort to understand where others are coming from.

I don’t know about you, but I certainly didn’t wake up this morning thinking I could learn something about selling more effectively by Vanilla Ice, but alas…I did; All right, STOP, COLLABORATE, AND LISTEN. Happy Selling!!!