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Is there anything within this specialized world that is valuable for the continuing evolution of successful salespeople? The quick answer is yes.  Here is what first responders do that will help you in sales.


It starts with a sickening crunch of glass, plastic and metal.  By the time we arrive, there is chaos.  Cars twisted and smashed in.  Shattered glass litters the roadway.  Victims wandering around the scene or perhaps even trapped within one of the deformed vehicles.  Sounds of screaming and sirens; the flash of blue and red lights.  Fluids pooled on the asphalt.

This is the motor vehicle accident.  Every day, every hour, in all weather conditions, emergency responders handle scenes like this one – or worse – successfully.  What is it that allows these men and women to perform their roles successfully?  Is there anything within this specialized world that is valuable for the continuing evolution of successful salespeople?

The quick answer is yes.  Here is what first responders do that will help you in sales:

  1. They train.  Preparation is vital to overcome stress, avoiding “tunnel vision” and performing at peak efficiency.
  2. They assess.  Where are the pain points?  Have you missed something crucial?
  3. They adapt.  No two situations are identical.  Can you quickly adjust to change?

ABC doesn’t mean “always be closing” for an EMT, it means airway, breathing and circulation.

It’s unimaginable to conceive of firefighters and emergency medical technicians (EMTs) engaging in their work without training — not just initial training, but ongoing training.  This involves reading and classroom lecture, but most importantly, it involves simulations that are as realistic as possible.  This hands-on training fixes knowledge into the mind and the muscles to make concrete those skills that might literally save a life in the real world.  What makes us think that in business and sales that we don’t also need training to perform at our peak?  Our hands-on training would be realistic role-playing to translate conceptual knowledge into usable techniques we can actually employ, sometimes in stressful situations, when we’re facing a prospect.

The most natural thing to do in an emergency is to run towards the most flame or the most damaged vehicle.  It’s a common mistake to place one’s attention on the most obvious wound.  This phenomenon is called “tunnel vision.”  For first responders, it can be deadly to miss seeing the downed power line, the driver not paying attention as he passing by the accident scene, or the patient who looks fine but has a life-threatening internal injury.  In sales, we tend to rush towards the first area of “pain” the prospect discloses.  “Their accounting software lacks a piece of functionality!”  Yet bolting to “fix” the first issue discovered may blind us to more pressing issues not yet revealed.  These unrevealed issues may be the actual key to making the sale and serving the client fully.

As first responders, we encounter a blizzard of unusual situations that demand adaptation.  People that have been doing this work for 20 years can easily encounter situations they’ve never seen or experienced before.  In sales too, situations change. What you thought would be a five-minute meeting with one lower-level person turns out to be a presentation in a boardroom with 12 people eagerly awaiting you.  What you thought would be a routine presentation is now a cacophony of objections.  It’s training and experience that allows us to adapt within these changing circumstances and perform at our peak abilities.

Train as realistically as possible.  Use role-players unknown to the sales staff to increase the realism of the exercise.  Assess then adapt inside the framework of your experience and training.

About the author

Peter McLaughlin

Peter McLaughlin

Peter McLaughlin is a salesman at heart. In his 25-year career in sales he…

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