Two shoe salesmen were sent to a corner of the world to see if there was a market for their product. The first salesman reported back, “This is a terrible business opportunity, no-one wears shoes.” The second salesman reported back, “This is a fantastic business opportunity, no-one wears shoes.”
Yes, it is probably an urban legend. However, in sales terms it is a demonstration of the ‘glass half empty’ ethos. Do you focus on the problem or the solution is essentially the question.
It can get deeper than that – depending on the situation you’re in, your focus can alter. A sales area where you’re confident may see you leaning more often, if not all the time, towards solutions. Yet, an area where your skills aren’t as sharp, or experience not as deep may see you more often focusing on the problems.
The end goal is to understand in what situations you err towards focusing on the problem – this quickly highlights the areas where you could develop. Often it’s easier for those around us to tell us this – not that we usually like this. Sales Managers and Leaders can usually see ‘problem orientated’ thinking quite easily, but the challenge is identifying the skill gap that’s causing it.
It can be as simple as not having the skills to deal with it. For example, the first shoe sales person above may have only ever sold to people replacing shoes. He has no strategy for those that have never worn them.
It could be they’ve tried before and it didn’t work. Again, the first shoes sales person may have tried to sell someone shoes who doesn’t wear them and failed and assumes it will happen again.
Next time you find yourself or your sales team making negatively biased statements around what can’t be done….ask yourself (or them) it is because you’re focusing on what’s not in the glass, rather than the water that is.