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All Generalizations Are Lies. Even This One (A Word on Sales Advice)

There are countless websites and blogs that provide advice and ideas to improve your sales results.

Sometimes, the ideas you find will be in conflict. I write that cold calling is necessary; others believe that cold calling is dead and that social media is the only way to succeed in sales. Sometimes the ideas you find appear to be in conflict when there is no real conflict; sometimes the conversation needs more discussion or more clarity.

How do you determine which ideas are worth your time? How do you know what is true, and what isn’t exactly true? Here are a few ideas.

All Generalizations Are Lies

It doesn’t make for compelling reading when the writer isn’t confident in what they are writing. It is one thing for me to write, “You have a moral obligation to cold call,” and quite another to write, “Your sales might be improved by cold calling.”

Confident writing leads to broad generalizations. It gives you a black and a white, a right and a wrong, a good and an evil. It leaves no room for all the subtle shades of gray that exist in the middle.

All generalizations are necessarily lies. Even the one I just wrote (and especially any great truth that can be crammed into 140 characters).

A long time ago, I studied law. The law gives you a concrete rule based on some principle, and you study case after case to understand the rule. But sometimes the rules don’t apply. There are laws, and then there are exceptions to those laws. And then there are exceptions to the exceptions.

It is a crime to kill someone. Unless you do so in self-defense. Unless you didn’t try to retreat. Unless you were in your own home.

This is how you should look at sales advice on the Internet. There are rules. There are exceptions to those rules. There are exceptions to the exceptions. The principles underlying these rules are what make them useful, and understanding the exceptions is what mastery is made of. The exceptions are based on principles, too.

Ask yourself some questions. Does the idea make sense to you? Is it helpful in the situation in which you are applying it? Are there exceptions to the rule? Are there other ideas that might benefit you and your sales results more?

Your obligation to discern for yourself doesn’t end there.

Discover Your Own Truth

You shouldn’t go through your sales life without making observations and distinctions about your own sales practice. You have to discover your own truths.

If what you read conflicts with what you know to be true, maybe it isn’t the truth for you and your sales practice. (And, maybe it is and you have some unlearning to do. Maybe you need to empty your cup to make room for new ideas and new behaviors).

I believe you should cold call. I believe it is right and good and necessary. You’re at 150% of your quota at the halfway mark of your sales year using only emailed invitations from your calendar program? Your truth is your truth.

It’s easy to believe that there is a right or wrong answer, and sometimes there is one answer that is far superior to others. But in something as complex as sales (and the human beings and relationships of which it is made), there is more often effective and ineffective. Some choices are effective; other choices are ineffective under that same set of circumstances.

That said, some general principles have been proven true time and time again. If you read advice suggesting that the longest held principles are no longer true, it is worth thinking deeply before acting—especially if the idea is appealing because it means you can sell without prospecting, get rich without working hard, or lose weight without changing your dietary habits.

What’s true for you?

Questions

How do you determine where to get sales advice on the Internet?

How do you determine which ideas make sense for you?

How do you approach taking advice when it is an idea that makes you uncomfortable?

What are the truths that you have discovered about sales?

Do you find ideas that are too good to be true appealing? Why?

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