Sellers often face obstacles in their sales process, and the need to remove them is sometimes referred to as the need to “Shoot the donkey.”
Will Batista has worked on several presidential campaigns and other political campaigns throughout the country. He recently led a state ballot initiative to change Nevada’s constitution and now he is now working in the energy sector, particularly in the communications and investor relations of the company. Jonathan Diaz works in the university setting where he serves as an adviser and he also teaches classes.
Shoot the donkey
This phrase originates from an article that Will discovered while he was looking at political media companies. Shooting the donkey means removing obstacles in your course.
In the movie Patton, based on true events, the characters were heading up a mountain but there was a donkey in the way. Failure to get the donkey out of the way would put them in a dire situation resulting in casualties, so they sent out some of the guys to move the donkey. Nothing worked so the general said, ‘Shoot the donkey!’
Remove the obstacles
When we were in college, our obstacles were our beliefs. We didn’t believe in ourselves as much as we should have. There are times that we don’t give ourselves credit when we should. This is true in sales as well. You might not trust your sales ability and you keep telling yourself that you’re no good at it. This idea is difficult to overcome but it’s imperative that you get through it because it’s the only way for you to become successful.
For example, back in college when we were selling water, the first obstacle that we had was that we spent a lot of money to get a booth and to get all the water, and eventually get my money back. In order to do that business at a bigger scale, we needed more people, so we went to Idaho Falls and that’s when we did a better job.
The third time, we ran out of water and we could have given up, but we didn’t. Will went to Sam’s club and got ice and made it happen.
We succeeded on a small scale. We didn’t make hundreds and thousands of dollars but it was proof that when you put a desire into action, you can make it happen.
Fear of obstacles
Sometimes we fear obstacles and see them as a negative thing because they do have a negative impact at that moment. There is, however, an opportunity for growth and change in every obstacle, and the ability to tackle problems in a different way. It is a great time for a change and to challenge your ability to think differently.
The water selling was very basic but year after year, we saw that we’re not doing so great and that became an opportunity to improve the process. Obstacles are typically not good things, but they are opportunities for us to grow and to think critically so that when we are faced with another problem in the future, we will be able to overcome the challenge.
A lot of times when you are trying to get something done, there are always goals that you need to meet. Will was thrown into the fire in his first year working as field staff in Reno because he had no experience recruiting volunteers or meeting metrics.
He had to learn the ropes quickly and the obstacles he faced were the goals that were being imposed on him. He had to find ways to meet the goals regardless of whether he had volunteers or not.
Will needed to get into these gated communities but he couldn’t get in. Sometimes, they’d follow another car and find a way to get to the individuals and voters to get their contact information. He had to do whatever was necessary to meet their goals. They had goals in mind and they focused their actions to meet the goals.
Obstacles will always be there but you’ve gotta do what you’ve gotta do.
Another challenge was getting people into the office to make the calls for the campaign so sometimes, Will had two phones going at the same time. He’d be leaving a message on one phone and talking on the other. Hustling is when you do what you need to do to hit your goals.
John advises students of three main things as they seek the best fit:
- Identify their interests
- Identify their skills and abilities
- Determine their values, or the things that are important to them
For students, the biggest obstacle is the parental control or familial influence. Students now are pressured with the idea that they need to choose a major that will provide them with stability in the future. Many are being pushed into taking courses that they aren’t interested in, courses that they aren’t good at, and courses that are not even aligned to their values.
John tells his students that for them to shoot the donkey, they need to remove the barrier and talk to their parents. They need to choose the major of their choice because, at the end of the day, it’s them who will go through all the studying and not their parents.
John helps the students remove the barrier of parental control to see the other options and areas that can work for them.
A typical challenge in sales is the people. Sales leaders manage sales teams and often they feel like they don’t have enough qualified workforce or that they don’t have enough people with qualified sales experience. Sales leaders overcome this obstacle by trusting the skills that people bring from all different walks of life.
If you are experiencing a barrier in your sales, and you’ve hit a plateau even when you already have a very good team, try to think outside the box. Bring in somebody from outside of the organization who can break down the barriers that your current sales team cannot.
Whether it’s in politics, in the corporate world, or in sales, people often fail to recognize the skills that people from other industries have. It’s time to break down that barrier and start looking outside your comfort zone.
Keep it real without being rude. Give real feedback without being demeaning. You don’t want to waste time so it is important to make the choice that you really want.
“Shoot the Donkey” episode resources
Connect with Will in his LinkedIn account or email him in email@example.com. You can also reach John via his email firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.
Whatever role you are playing in your industry, I challenge you to go out and look for the challenges that are in your way. Remove the challenges, make the hard decisions, and make things happen.
If you’re a sales rep looking to hone your craft and learn from the top 1% of sellers, make plans to attend the Sales Success Summit in Austin, Tx, October 14-15. Scheduled on a Monday and Tuesday to limit the impact to the sales week, the Sales Success Summit connects sellers with top-level performers who have appeared on the podcast. Visit Top1Summit.com to learn more and register!
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