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Avoid Shiny New Object Syndrome

Selling well now is more difficult than ever. And we in sales aren’t taking the right actions to match this new reality. Instead of doing the work that will lead to improvement, we bounce from one shiny new object to the next shiny object, always believing the next will be “the one.”

The next shiny object is no better than the last. It’s wasted time and wasted effort. If you want to improve your sales, you must avoid the new shiny object and focus on improving the salesperson.

Magic Bullets

There is a never-ending search for the magic bullet, the one thing that is going to improve sales without requiring the hard work that the task really requires. Something must be broken. And something has got change.

So instead of executing the sales process we know works, we buy and install the new sales process, never recognizing that it isn’t the method that needs to be improved. The process is broken because we pay only lip service to the process and its use.

Instead of using the existing sales force automation, we install a new system or bolt on some additional functionality that is supposed to make improvements. We can’t be bothered with the fact that our salespeople don’t have real, value-creating relationships with their entries in the sales force automation. I’d call those entries relationships but that would be a serious exaggeration in a lot of cases.

The list goes on and on, but all too rarely does our commitment include the one thing that will improve our results. Instead, we search and search for the magic bullet. And while some bullets seem to have magical properties, none of them produces the results that we hoped for. There is no bullet with that much magic.

Avoiding the Difficult

We are trying to find ways to prevent the sales force from having to do what is difficult. We are trying to supplement the sales force in ways that will allow the least successful to accomplish the complex and complicated task of professional sales. It doesn’t work. There is no way to save them. They can’t succeed without doing what is both difficult and necessary.

And we are letting ourselves off the hook too. It’s difficult to build real salespeople. If you are in sales, it’s difficult to build yourself into what you must become. Instead of doing the work of building a deep competency in the fundamentals, we try to find ways to avoid that work. Instead of teaching salespeople how to create value during their prospecting efforts, we allow them to avoid prospecting and tell them that they can rely on social selling alone, email campaigns, or inbound marketing.

Instead of helping them develop the business acumen they need to create value, we offer them marketing material. Instead of teaching them to build consensus, we offer them some new shiny object in hope of ensnaring a client.

Too Little Focus on Fundamentals

It’s time to stop searching for shiny new objects. It’s a waste of your time. It’s a waste of the salesperson’s time. More still, it’s a waste of your client’s time.

It’s time to stop believing that there is a magic bullet. There isn’t a magic bullet, and no one is coming to rescue you.

The time to do the real work of sales is long, long overdue. If you are honest, you know that this is true.

Improvement is found in disciplined execution of the fundamentals.

The single biggest factor in winning new opportunities is the person sitting across from your dream client. The salesperson and her abilities to create value for the client count for more than any of the new tools, any of the new processes, or any remedy you find printed in some journal. That salesperson’s ability—and willingness—to execute the fundamentals of good salesmanship are the difference between the results you want and the results you are producing right now.

And improving and developing the salesperson is the single most difficult task you are charged with, whether you are a front line sales manager, or whether you yourself are that salesperson. That execution is found in coaching salespeople, not in managing salespeople. That improvement is found in teaching, training, and developing salespeople to be effective salespeople.

Yes, the new objects are shiny. But that shine is only a distraction from what you really need to do to improve your sales.


Why do shiny objects so easily seduce us?

Why do we desperately need to believe there are easy answers to difficult tasks?

Would you rather be a poor salesperson with great tools or a great salesperson with poor tools? How do you improve yourself?

Would you rather have a sales force made up of C-players but well equipped or a poorly equipped sales force made up of A-players and those striving to become A-players?

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  • Chris Snell

    This is great, Anthony, and I’m totally tracking with you. I was thinking about this today as I was planning for my Monday morning Inside Sales team meeting. Each week at the close of a meeting, I try to share a meaningful quote with my team as head off to the phones, and tomorrow’s is this: “All the so-called ‘secrets of success’ will not work unless you do.” None of the tips and tricks-of-the-trade and insider secrets matter – they don’t mean jack unless we actually DO the work. Sure, we can put them to use, but we’ve got to get the fundamentals down first. It doesn’t matter what magic bullet we have, we have to be willing to lock it, load it, and then pull the trigger; that takes work.

    • S. Anthony Iannarino

      It’s so true, Chris, nothing works unless you do. But mostly we don’t like doing the difficult stuff, and we like doing the easy stuff. Need to reverse that!

  • Karin Bellantoni

    Anthony- This is an American disease. Taking a pill to fix everything. Most folks would prefer “get a fix” than dig deep into:
    What are the symptoms/ challenges?
    What strategy should we test to overcome it?
    How will we measure the success (or not) of the strategy?

    These three questions are a must before buying into new shiny dashboards, trainings, CRM’s and other systems or fixes.

    The weight loss industry is a great model for this behavior. Some very rich people and some very overweight people buying lots junk.
    Keep telling it like it is.

    • S. Anthony Iannarino

      Thanks, Karin. We need to catch up. Maybe a Google Hangout soon?

  • Mazen Alzogbi

    Anthony, I believe this is psychologically conditioned in most people. These are two conversations that are very familiar to all of us; “instant gratification” and the “quick fix”.

    Sales professionals continue hearing about a new *shiny* method out there for increasing sales. Because our emotional brain is conditioned to be seduced with instant gratification, especially by applying new (read SHINY) methods, we tend to want to try it, and try it NOW!

    As Karin said, this applies to the weight loss industry (smoking cessation, fashion, etc.). Have you noticed that the online marketing industry is using the very same principles nowadays?

    Few sales professionals have trained themselves to work harder on themselves. Jim Rohn said it better than anyone I know: “Want to become wealthy? Work harder on yourself than you do on your job!”

    Thank you for sharing those invaluable thoughts with us.

    • S. Anthony Iannarino

      Thanks, Mazen. I am such a fan of Jim Rohn!

  • Bart Zych

    It may be useful to consider this syndrome as a symptom, and not just in America. I think that when you look at people who are successful, you will see that they truly believe in what they do. You can actually hear it in their tone of voice when you talk with them. It’s their attitude, their passion and the resulting competence that results in success. You can’t help but feel motivated yourself after talking with such people.

    Often, people ‘end up’ in a sales profession because they have not discovered what they want to do, or more specifically, what their passion is, and sales is one of those disciplines that you can get into with little or no training or experience. And many do.

    The result? Sales teams composed of people who don’t really want to be there, but are doing the bare minimum to stay because they don’t know what else to do, while managers scramble to get sales up by any means possible because sales training and coaching seems ineffective. And so usually the seemingly quickest fix is a ‘shiny new object’ coupled with high turnover (so common in many sales organizations).

    So how to address the symptom? Managers need to learn how to recognize potential sales people that believe in their own success, and that pursue goals to that end. You can’t coach a sales person who is not passionate about what he is doing, and doesn’t believe in his own success, to become consistently successful.

    • S. Anthony Iannarino

      Your sending us way off down the path, Bart. I call that group SINO’s (salespeople in name only). And your assessment is spot on.

    • Mazen Alzogbi

      And how about finding out what “star” sales people are doing and teach it to the SINOs?

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