A Ten Minute Military Lesson Used As A Guide To Sales!

Almost everyone I know has had an “Ahah” moment. Sometimes we don’t know that they are ahah moments until later. One of these happened to me in 1970 when I was a young, very wet-behind-the-ears 2nd Lieutenant stationed with the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

I drew the short straw one Saturday night so I was the Battalion officer in charge. I had just graduated from Office Candidate School so I was long on military tactics but short on experience. As the Battalion officer you are the go-to person if anything out of the ordinary happens to anyone or anything in the Battalion. On this particular Saturday evening about 2AM I was called to Battalion headquarters where two privates from one of the platoons were being held after they starred in a bar fight off base. As the two nimrods were being processed another fight broke out between them.

Instead of intervening I stood there like the Rock of Gibraltar and let the MP’s take charge. End of situation or so I thought. Monday morning I was called into Lt. Colonel Casey’s (Battalion Commander) office. Casey was five foot nine inches of  hard core military-buzz cut, steely eyes, and combat experience. Physically I was five inches taller than Casey but mentally I was a boy scout! For ten harrowing (at the time) minutes Casey wreaked havoc on me about my failure to react properly to a leadership situation, which of course was my frozen statue imitation of the previous Saturday night.

At the end of the ten minute tirade Casey told me to stand at ease. He said to me, “Son, you will be faced with situations in your life where you have to take action quickly and with confidence. The lesson to be learned from Saturday night’s fiasco is when in doubt take action-do something. Life passes people by who stand and watch.” He spoke these three sentences slowly and with great mentoring force. I didn’t just hear them; they were seared into my brain!

And so to sales. How many times have all of us been in situations that required action and where we had a mental hiccup? Those hiccups tend to abate as we gain experience but they still occur. The rule of thumb is DO SOMETHING with a very strong emphasis on the thing! Doing something has even more meaning for sales managers. The longer a sales manager allows a bad situation to continue the larger the mess will be. The longer a salesperson allows his or her fears to rule their lives the poorer they will be, both in money and self image.

The Final Thought: “Take Action”. Lieutenant Colonel Casey, First of the 325 Battalion.

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