I saw this quote on the bathroom wall of my favorite Asheville coffee shop this week.
“There’s always free cheddar in the mousetrap baby.”
It’s a lyric from a Tom Waits song, a song I’m not particularly fond of, but this lyric line got me thinking. The main message, of course, is that the easiest path is not always the best. The mouse would be better off slowly nibbling on alley scraps through the day to end up with enough food to survive, instead of trying to grab the full days’ worth of nutrition at one time from the mouse trap—making it his last meal!
As I thought about this timeless truth, I started thinking about the trap I see many new salespeople fall into. Too often, a new seller makes a quick sale or two before they know what they’re doing, before they are following the right steps and committing to enough activity.
This is dangerous. It’s worse to have these easy, beginner's luck wins than it is to struggle through a few months with no sales. The risk is the salesperson will believe that what they were doing was right—a best practice!—and they’ll repeat the sloppy behavior that happened to have yielded a good result.
But it won’t keep working for them. Future successes will be few and far between. And if they have a strong ego (a desirable trait), they will also be less open to your coaching. They will pretend to be listening, but they’ll keep holding on to the poor habits that produced a lucky sale or two.
If you are a salesperson, resist the free cheddar in the mousetrap. Do the hard things. Follow the steps. Stick to proven best practices. Everyday.
If you are a manager, remember that you have two key opportunities for coaching. Coaching the person and managing the process. Coaching the person means helping each individual perform at their best based on their talents, skills, and experience. Managing the process is making sure each salesperson is following your proven-effective selling steps and practices while keeping activity levels high enough to yield top performance.