Skip to main content
How to Develop Salespeople

How to Solve Seemingly Unsolvable Problems

Okay, so welcome to another one of my ToddTalks, which always exists to equip you with ideas that you can use immediately to improve your leadership, make a greater difference in the world and hopefully help other people do the same. If you are someone who’s trying to make a real difference in the world through the work that you do, one of the most important capabilities is influence. By influence, I don’t mean pressuring people, coercing them, tricking them to do things they don’t want to, manipulation. I don’t mean any of that. I mean, influencing them to step up, to tackle the opportunities in their own lives, and in other people’s lives and in their organizations to make things better. Anyone who’s taken on this challenge has felt stuck at one time or another, and that no matter what you tried, you couldn’t mobilize people to take action even when it was in their best interest.

So today I’ll tell you about Marco and Johanna, a great sales team, because I think it holds lessons for all of us on how we can get unstuck in seemingly unsolvable situations. Here’s what Marco and Johanna said in their own words. “For a year and a half, we only received four orders from this large client for our life saving product. And based on the lack of progress and their low responsiveness, we were seriously considering pulling out of the account altogether. Breakthrough selling couldn’t have come at a better time because two key learnings from the program proved to be the catalyst that we needed for real change.

Number one, we recognized the need for us to be much more direct in our conversations with one of our key decision makers. And then we started asking much more concrete questions on which of his customers would benefit from our product and what it would take to ensure they got access. As a result of doing this, he stopped giving us his typical vague answers and opened up about the number of new potential customers. This also sparked a realization in him that he needed to collaborate with another department in his organization to ensure these customers got access to our life saving product.

We also came up with a strategy to get traction with another key decision maker who had been blocking our efforts. We started inviting several people who had good relationships with him and with us and asked them to join our meetings with him.” That’s a cool idea. “The change in him was palpable. He started letting his guard down and finally opened up to hearing us out. These two changes in our approach have been the linchpin in completely transforming our relationship with this customer. In just the first quarter alone, there have already been three orders and at this rate, this will equate to a sixfold year over year increase in sales, which will generate over $5 million in revenue.”

Okay. So I think there are several important lessons that we could all take from this story. One of which is simply a reminder about the importance of persistence. That even when we’re facing the most intractable problems, even when the cliff face seems completely sheer, we may be able to find a way to find a finger or a foothold if we stare at the problem long enough.

Two is the impact of personal responsibility because much to Marco and Johanna’s credit, they didn’t blame circumstances and other people for their lack of results. Instead, they asked themselves and the other people they were going through my program with an uncomfortable but very self-empowering question. The question was this, what is it about us and the way we’ve been handling the situation that may be part of the problem in ways we don’t realize? It ended being the group, not me or my faculty that told Marco and Johanna that they weren’t asking decision maker number one enough direct questions and that they weren’t leveraging the relationships that they and decision maker number two had in common.

Which brings us to what I think is the third lesson from the story, the power of vulnerability, because it was by exposing themselves and their problem to others that they got the ideas and wisdom that they needed to transform their circumstances. I think that’s really cool because they didn’t let their own egos and their desire to look good to override their commitment to the truth and doing good. The result, many more people are now receiving and, I’m confident will receive, the benefit of their life saving product.

Okay. So thanks for listening. I hope you found this valuable and I look forward to talking to you next time but in the meantime, be candid, be compassionate, be collaborative and most of all, be curious.

Leave a Reply