An undead zombie is shambling towards the lone survivor, arms outstretched, low moan coming from its chest. The plucky hero raises a machine gun in an attempt to ward of the attack and fills the zombie full of lead…but the zombie keeps coming! Because the hero didn’t shoot it in the head! And everyone who’s seen a zombie movie knows that the brain is a zombie’s weak point!
…It’s frustrating to watch the characters in a zombie movie make the same fundamental mistakes over and over again. It’s just as frustrating to watch sales people and business development reps fail to take care of the basics when they meet with prospective clients. You can pick up some useful tips for your next sales call from watching how people handle the threat of zombies (and you can learn what not to do too):
- Don’t waste bullets! There’s usually the scene where a guy empties a machine gun into a zombie, and it just keeps coming for him. And now he’s stuck because he didn’t know what he was aiming for – and now he’s out of bullets. When you speak to prospects, don’t just spray them with information, especially if you don’t know what’s going to be effective. Too many salespeople just come in and start talking non-stop.
- Do your research! In the beginning of the movies, no one knows how to handle the threat, because they don’t know what they are dealing with. What are these zombies? Where did they come from and what caused them? Take the time to do some research on your prospects and their needs before you ever show up! Learn what has worked before and what hasn’t; and then leverage the former and stay away from the latter.
- Do aim for their weak point! Everyone knows that you aim for the head to kill a zombie, nothing else is effective (see the first paragraph). In the same way, your prospect has a problem, which your research should have uncovered. You have the solution to that problem – focus on that. Everything else you talk about is superfluous, don’t waste your ammunition or the prospect’s time.
- Don’t panic! When people panic, they make bad decisions and are overwhelmed by the zombies. Always keep a cool head. Whether you are in a sales presentation or trying to hit your end of the year numbers, remember that panicking doesn’t help at all. In fact, avoid getting backed into a corner (or a building with too many indefensible doors and window) so you won’t be in a panic-inducing situation.
- Do get help! It’s always good to have someone covering your back, because you never know when a zombie is going to sneak up and take a bite out of you. The most successful strategies in zombie movies involve a group of survivors – do you have your team? Make sure you have mentors and coaches to guide you, peers to collaborate with, and partners to help you close business. You chances of success improve exponentially when you have support.
Keep these rules in mind, and you’ll have a chance of getting out of the zombie apocalypse, er, your next sales presentation, alive and with a fully-functioning brain. And when in doubt, keep your chainsaw handy. We don’t know what the metaphor is here, but chainsaws in zombie movies are always cool.
(This article was written in collaboration with Rob Hazan, who knows more about zombie movies than anyone I know and I hope he is with me when the zombies do come…)