Those who have never experienced failed B2B sales calls are at a distinct disadvantage to those who have.
B2B sales people, who have been around more than a few years, possess the huge advantage of having lived through both failures and successes.
However, it seems in today’s technology generation, where everyone under 35 is glued to their phone, the accrual of wisdom with age, appears to be a handicap.
During Ronald Reagan’s second U.S. presidential debate with Walter Mondale in October 1984, the former movie star was asked about his age — he was 73 — and whether he would be able to handle the rigours of the toughest job in the world.
The oldest president in U.S. history responded: “I want you to know that I will not make age an issue of this campaign. I am not going to exploit, for political purposes, my opponent’s youth and inexperience.”
Brilliant. Even Mondale had to laugh.
Top tennis players typically reach their highest levels of performance at age 24, (although Roger Federer, Serena Williams, and Rafael Nadal are making a strong argument that it can be past 35).
For baseball, the peak age is 28, the same for long distance runners. It’s three years older for golf.
For table tennis it’s 17 years. It’s all downhill after that.
So, what’s the peak performance age for a B2B sales person or B2B coach?
I believe there is no age barrier.
As with any job, experience should be a good teacher.
But many younger people believe that anyone over 50 doesn’t know about “today’s” real world in sales or business.
Why do they think this way?
I believe it’s because too many of them feel that we don’t know enough about technology to be successful in today’s world. (I say “we” because I’m 75, and I have been in B2B sales, executive positions, and owned two tech related companies, and now coaching, all in the past 45 years, so you be the judge)
However, I must admit that I do see a lot of younger B2B sales people, marketers and executives, who do inspire me.
I don’t know the ages of the many successful B2B sales people, but I do have the ages below of some pretty savvy investors. And their age and experience has made many of them billionaires. And part of that is because they do use technology to “help” them invest.
And more importantly, they use relationships as a better means to an end.
B2B sales people, marketers and executives also need to use technology, as an aid to selling. But not as the sole way to sell.
And there is a big comparison to age, with B2B sales people and investors.
For example, there are a number of great investors who are still going strong in their golden years. Warren Buffett, the CEO of Berkshire Hathaway and one of the richest men in the world, is 89. His right-hand man, Charlie Munger, is 95.
There seems to be no age limit, barring cognitive impairment or other ailments, that hampers one’s ability to be a great investor, or sales person, and especially a B2B sales coach and mentor.
Great investing, as well as a great sales person or coach, has nothing to do with getting older. In fact, it’s probably quite the opposite.
Phil Carret, one of Buffett’s role model’s, and the founder of one of the first mutual funds in the U.S., was still investing when he died at 101, was asked to what he owed his longevity. He thought for a moment and said, “Well, I never smoked, I drink in moderation and I don’t worry about anything.”
Smoking will kill you before you reach 101, but I believe it’s the latter element that was the most important.
Wisdom is learned and earned
Age gives you something that the young simply can’t have — experience and mistakes, which lead to wisdom. Consider the thoughts of Thomas Edison, inventor of the light bulb.
“I have not failed 10,000 times. I have not failed once. I have succeeded in proving that those 10,000 ways will not work. When I have eliminated the ways that will not work, I will find the way that will work,” he said.
Every job needs experience and wisdom to be done well. And B2B sales people need a lot of experience and wisdom.
Two very wise “old” men kept teaching, coaching and helping well into their golden years. Dan Kennedy, who was close to 65 when he passed away recently, was working right to the end. And Drayton Bird, one of the best marketers that ever lived, is in his 80’s, and still going strong with his business.
Those who have never experienced failures, in sales and business, or life, are at a distinct disadvantage to those who have. Most of today’s younger B2B sales people, and executives, don’t remember Y2K, which led to the great dot.com collapse in 2000, never mind the white-knuckle abyss of 1987.
And it’s been over ten years since we’ve had a recession. The longest time in recorded history.
B2B sales people and executives, who have been around for a number of years, possess the huge advantage of having lived through both successes and failures, and economic collapses that almost ruined their careers and businesses. I know I have seen, and lived through, many recessions, and lost a lot of money.
Experience is invaluable in sales and business. Yes, having the right education can be advantageous. Studying economics, accounting and mathematics can help to build an important foundation.
But the classroom is light years away from the ultra-competitive, and cut-throat, real world of B2B sales marketing and business overall.
In that arena, my mistakes have taught me way more than my successes. The pains of losses are incredibly great teachers.
Failures are a Great Teacher
What do you learn from mistakes? First off, you learn that you don’t want to do them ever again!
For example, always discounting just to get the business, leads to becoming a commodity business, and only the big and rich survive in that environment. EG: Amazon in retail.
IBM almost failed before they brought in an “old” outsider to save them back in the 1990’s. Lou Gerstner came from a completely different industry. He was the first non-IBM’er to lead IBM. And he led them out of the abyss.
So, what are the young B2B sales people and marketers to do, the ones who have never experienced these long-term events?
One suggestion: There are many good books about B2B sales and marketing that can help you. But books can only take you so far.
The most effective thing, any B2B sales person and marketer can do, is to get sales training and on-going coaching, to be really successful at B2B sales and marketing.
There are obviously many sales and marketing programs you can take.
How to Become Great at B2B
However, there are three factors that set the best programs apart, to make you successful.
1. The program must have on-going coaching, after the initial training.
2. The program must have role plays.
3. And most importantly, the program must show you show to build long-lasting business relationships.
Otherwise, you will live the horror of what the great economist, John Kenneth Galbraith, reportedly said many years ago — the old generation has to die off, so a new set of idiots can make the same mistakes all over again.
Please contact me, through my email below, and let’s start a discussion about how you can help your sales team and marketers, as well as executives, grow your business faster and more profitably, and stop making those same mistakes.
Ian Dainty’s Email
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