I’ve had two weeks how to digest the victory of my New York Giants over the New England Patriots in Superbowl XLVI. It was a wonderful game with exhaustive post-game analysis of the minutia of every aspect of the game, all of which I have relished. But as a entrepreneur and as a salesman, my thoughts keep coming back to New York’s decidedly uncharismatic coach, Tom Coughlin.
Tom Coughlin can be fairly described as dull, plodding, and untellegenic–an unassuming, private man in an immodest, exhibitionist era. He was hired as a strict martinet to bring back fundamental discipline to the Giants in 2004. He has been successful, but he is never mentioned in the same breath with such “brilliant” coaches as Bill Belichek, Bill Parcells, or Don Shula. Yet it strikes me that he has a lesson to impart not only to other coaches, but also to executive salesmen like me. It strikes me that, in his unspectacular way, Tom Coughlin may be a rather brilliant long-term thinker and expectations manager.
Coach Coughlin never over-hyped his hopes for his team this year. But he expressed faith in his team’s ability and potential, even when depleted by injury and bad luck. He did this consistently and without overstatement or bellicosity–never getting too high or too low, but always keeping in mind where he wanted his team to end the season. He never pandered to short-term crisis or panicked at setbacks, but always kept his thinking and communication in terms of the long-term and the main chance.
I am the primary rainmaker for my executive outsourced sales company, Corporate Rain International, as I know many readers of the blog are for their own firms. Coughlin’s example is a reminder to always under-promise and over-deliver in the context of a long-term and consistent coaching (sales) plan.
One thing I think I did right, among many I did wrong, when I started my company in 1996, was to think of how each of my actions and statements would effect reputationally where I wanted my company to be in five years. That was about as far ahead as I could imagine as a parvenu entrepreneur.
Good salesmanship avoids breathless hyperbole and presents a simple, but articulate valuation of what is deliverable. My experience is that understated salesmanship pays off in long-term trust and reputation.
So thanks, Tom Coughlin, for a reminder of the value of expectations management, the entrepreneurial salesman’s friend.
As William Shakespeare puts it in All’s Well That Ends Well (Act 2, Scene 1),
“Oft expectation fails and most oft there
where most it promises, and oft it hits
where hope is coldest and despair most fits”