Vuja De: Sales Tips from George Carlin

by Linda P. Kester March/April 2017
If there’s one thing a salesperson puts off, it’s prospecting. Taking an idea from comedian George Carlin, Linda Kester encourages reps to take a vuja de approach to making those dreaded calls — by striking an attitude they’ve never experienced before.

Outbound prospecting is a key ingredient for the origination of equipment finance volume. Conversely, the No. 1 reason leasing sales people fail is because they don’t originate enough new business. It seems like an easy problem to solve. More targeted prospecting equals more production. Salespeople inherently know this, yet they do everything they can to avoid making outbound new business calls.

Whenever I work with a sales team, they inevitably list the reasons why they can’t prospect:

  • No time
  • Too busy documenting transactions
  • Putting out fires
  • Servicing existing accounts

They name excuse after excuse. During a recent workshop, the reps started complaining and suddenly I experienced déjà vu, you know, that feeling of having been there before.

Immediately my mind went to that socially perceptive comedian, the late George Carlin. He had a routine about déjà vu. He took the concept and flipped it around. Déjà vu became vuja de (pronounced voo-jaday), “the strange feeling that, somehow, none of this has ever happened before.”

I started to imagine a world where leasing sales people loved making prospect calls. In my hypothetical utopia, calling on vendors and lessees is pleasurable and even stimulating.

Salespeople avoid prospecting because it can make them feel bad. Let’s flip that idea, just like Carlin did, and ask how can we make prospecting enjoyable?

As the inspirational author Greenville Kleiser said, “Good humor is a tonic for mind and body. It is the best antidote for anxiety and depression. It is a business asset. It attracts and keeps friends. It lightens human burdens. It is the direct route to serenity and contentment.” With that in mind, here are five quotes from George Carlin that demonstrate ways to experience vuja de while prospecting.

“I put a dollar in a change machine. Nothing changed.”

Most reps want to improve and grow their numbers. I’ve had clients say, “I know better, why can’t I do better?” The inability to do what we know we should do is mindboggling. One way to look at this differently is to dig down and try to articulate any unhealthy beliefs about prospecting. Not wanting to impose on people or a subconscious belief that selling is somehow sleazy prevents you from making calls. Once you identify your limiting beliefs, you can work to resolve them.

Also, stop second guessing yourself. Often, when reps don’t prospect, they blame it on a lack of focus or time when it’s really about doubt. Question doubts, and they become less scary. Don’t give the doubts power. Think of them as clouds going across the sky. You see the doubt, acknowledge it and don’t become emotionally attached — just let it go.

You’re human. You’re going to have doubts about your abilities and your worthiness. But when you reach out to prospects with the intention to connect and serve, they feel it. If you can overcome the complicated emotions that underlie prospecting avoidance, you will improve.

“I’ve always wanted to be somebody, but I should have been more specific.”

Who do you want to be? Do you want to be a highly productive sales executive? If so, a sales mantra can help. An affirmation is a way to tell your subconscious mind, “I am taking responsibility.”

Some people say affirmations don’t work (which is an affirmation in itself), but they are not using them correctly. Although “my sales are growing” may be their affirmation, they may think, “This is stupid, it won’t work.”

Which thought is stronger? The negative one — it’s part of a long-standing, habitual way of looking at life. Some people will read an affirmation once a day and then complain the rest of the time. This strategy doesn’t work because multiple complaints voiced with strong feelings override positive thoughts.

One of the founders of the self-help movement, Louise L. Hay, said, “Affirmations are like seeds planted in soil. Poor soil, poor growth. Rich soil, abundant growth. The more you choose to think thoughts that make you feel good, the quicker the affirmations work.”

My favorite sales mantras are:

  • I am committed to making ___ daily prospects calls, no matter what.
  • I view my clients and prospects as valued friends, and I focus on how I can add value to their lives by being a trusted advisor.
  • I increase my volume every month because I’m committed to constant and never-ending improvement.

Stop being self-absorbed. When a prospect rejects you, it’s not always about you. They might be having a bad day. You never know what’s going on in someone’s life, so give him a break. Don’t write, “This guy is a blockhead” in your CRM system after one call. When you call on the account again, he might be in a completely different emotional state. Remember, all kinds of sales people call prospects, and there are many numskulls out there. Show them that you are a true equipment finance professional.

“One thing leads to another? Not always. Sometimes one thing leads to the same thing.”

Make it feel like the first time. One of my coaching clients, Pauline, picked up the phone and called a prospect that she had talked with many times. She didn’t just say, “How are you? Are you going to be acquiring any new equipment in the next 90 days?” Instead, her tone was filled with positive expectation and spunk. She said, “John, I know that maximizing productivity is important to you, and I just read an article in Airport Revenue News that has some good tips for your business.”

By not using the same tired script she employed vuja de. Pauline pursued the account by providing beneficial information about current events and new ideas. Eventually they entered into a large master lease together. After signing the agreement John said, “You kept calling without getting frustrated. You made it seem like doing business together was inevitable. You were a breath of fresh air.”

Pauline understood that people change their reactions based on your behavior toward them. She expected acceptance, conveyed positivity and influenced the client’s behavior. People who expect green lights are more likely to get them.

Being in the present moment and calling on customers for the first time could turn a routine follow-up call into a new active account.

“Why do they lock gas station bathrooms? Are they afraid someone will clean them?”

Feel the fear, and do it anyway. It’s ironic, but the most effective treatment for call reluctance is making calls. Avoidance feeds fear. Make the calls, and you’ll realize that no matter what happens, you can handle it. Work in 25 minute intervals. Set a timer and work for 20 to 25 minutes without interruption. Then stand up, stretch, check email and get back to prospecting. Do this every day, and it will become a habit. Habits become easier over time. When prospecting is easier, it becomes more enjoyable.

“Most people with low self-esteem have earned it.”

Value yourself. Get the right mindset. Create an external sales reality that fits your internal reality. A rep’s worst enemy is herself. By keeping your self-esteem high, you’ll feel more deserving of good things in life. You’ll go after new accounts with more motivation. Believe in your potential. Visualize yourself getting the best results ever. Nothing is more important than how you feel and think about yourself.

Take action and try at least one of these ideas. Vuja de thinking works. Airbnb, Uber and Sonos are all examples of businesses that started looking at things in a different way. If you don’t like any of the above tips, the very least you can do is pick up the phone and tell your prospect a George Carlin joke.

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