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Don’t think twice; it’s OK to trust your instincts

“Scrambled eggs. Oh, my baby, how I love your legs.”

That’s the original opening lyric to the most covered, and one of the most beautiful, songs ever written, “Yesterday.”

Released as a Beatles single in 1965 and credited to the songwriting team of Lennon-McCartney, it was all Paul McCartney. He wrote it, sang it and was the only Beatle who played on it, a precursor to McCartney’s OCD-like need for control that ultimately led to the breakup of the group (along with the evil spell cast over John Lennon by Yoko Ono).

Although the song was destined to be recorded by more people than any other song in the history of mankind, the Beatles almost didn’t release it. They thought it was too soft for their image, and McCartney tried to give it away to another singer.

Can you imagine someone else singing “Yesterday” (other than the few million who have done so on countless recordings or in clubs and concert halls, of course)? Fortunately, McCartney’s intuitive musical brilliance prevailed, and the world continues to happily spin on its axis to the sweet, melodic rhythm of “why she had to go I don’t know, she wouldn’t say. I said something wrong, now I long for yesterday.”

And don’t all we soldiers of flirtatious, fleeting fortune long for yesterday when we occasionally (or is it “invariably”) say something wrong (read “stupid”) in front of a client or prospect?

As I wrote in “From The Jaws Of The Dragon; Sales Tales & Other Marginally Related Stuff,” “It is written that Samson slew thousands of Philistines with the jawbone of an ass, and it is said that thousands of sales are killed every day with the same weapon.”

There, I was discussing the volume of words we use, and my advice was to simply shut up – stop talking so much. Here, I’m all about the words we choose and the decision process we go through during a sales call.

It’s the paralysis-through-analysis syndrome; overthinking out of fear and insecurity. We’re unprepared, so we end up spouting off what we think are gems of wisdom about our product or service, rather than trusting our instincts and innate powers of observation.

Unfortunately, all we accomplish is convincing our potential customer that we’re just another hack trying to persuade her to buy something she may or may not need. And we leave sale-less with empty pockets, frustrated and blaming our product, our territory, our boss, the customer, Thor – everyone but the real culprit: ourselves.

There’s a book making the rounds through the incestuous world of sales training called “Blink” by Malcolm Gladwell.

The book primarily deals with something Gladwell calls thin-slicing: the ability to gauge what is really important from a very narrow period of experience. He postulates that spontaneous decisions often are as good as, or better than, carefully planned and considered ones.

He writes about our instinctive ability to read minds, which he says is how we can get to know what emotions a person is feeling just by looking at his face. Thin-slicing is the ability to use limited information to reach more accurate, effective conclusions.

Conversely, Gladwell believes that having too much information can interfere with the accuracy of a judgment, and he argues that you can develop better intuitive judgment through experience, training and knowledge.

In other words, fellow travelers, study and learn your product, your market, yourself – and then trust your instincts. And please remember, most mistakes are the result of lack of preparation and the insecurity that spawns.

I once worked at a company that had its salespeople learn a 10-page pitch, verbatim. For weeks, the young interlopers studied the script and memorized each and every word, exclusive of learning much about the product’s features and benefits.

I was in the field one day with a young salesman, and he was making a presentation to a potential customer. He was reciting the pitch flawlessly, leading the prospect through his sales binder of brightly colored promotional pieces.

When the salesman was about halfway through the pitch, the prospect said, “OK, I’m interested. Can I ask you a couple of questions?”

A look of panic came over the face of the upstart.

“No, not now,” he blurted out, “I’m not at that part yet,” and he went on to finish the entire script as the customer stared at him in disbelief.

The young man should have trusted his instincts and closed the prospect on the spot, but, in truth, because of his company’s inadvertent, yet systemic devaluation of critical sales priorities, he hadn’t developed a viable faculty for extemporaneously recognizing, evaluating and addressing opportunities.

And in the end, no sale.

So once you’ve mastered all aspects of your job, learn to trust your instincts, and you’ll be much more successful.

Trust me.

And trust your dreams, too.

Paul McCartney says he created “Yesterday” in a dream. He says he dreamt it, jumped out of bed and wrote it down, which is the central, albeit manipulated, theme of the movie “Inception.”

In it, the Leonardo DiCaprio character, Cobb, tells Ariadne, played by Ellen Page, “When we’re asleep, our minds can do almost anything.”

“Such as?” Ariadne asks.

“Imagine you’re designing a building,” Cobb responds. “You consciously create each aspect, but sometimes it feels like it’s almost creating itself, if you know what I mean.”

“Yeah, like I’m discovering it,” Ariadne says.

I happen to believe that’s true, and that you should learn to trust the inner, mysterious workings of your unconscious mind.

I also believe McCartney because I, too, have creative dreams. I often dream of breakfast, and voilą, a few hours later there I am eating scrambled eggs and oh, my baby how I love your bacon.

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