6 lessons every good sales manager should learn from ‘Star Wars’

Sales lessons from ‘a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away….’

At the time of this writing, Star Wars: The Force Awakens is on track to break just about every opening box office record conceivable. No matter how you cut it, the new film is a solid win for everyone behind it.

A mix of mystery, science-fiction, action, adventure, and drama, “Star Wars” is an undisputed pop culture phenomenon. And amidst all of that lightsaber-wielding adrenaline, the story has always had a strong element of philosophy, of teaching, and of clever aphorisms that we’ve all quoted.

More than mere wise words from Yoda — “Do. Or do not. There is no try.” — there are some great lessons throughout the unfolding story.

Here are some of our favorite lessons from Star Wars that every sales professional should learn.

[Author’s Note: If you haven’t had a chance to see “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” yet, don’t worry. This article contains no spoilers to the new movie.]

‘These aren’t the droids you’re looking for…’

The Jedi mind trick made famous by Obi-Wan Kenobi in the first Star Wars movie would be every sales manager’s dream. Imagine if you could gently suggest any number of things to a potential client!

You may not be able to manipulate someone’s mind, but a modern (read: ethical) sales manager shouldn’t be trying to trick a client into something they don’t need. Rather, you need to help your customers find the right solution for them. As is often the case, a customer may not know exactly what they are looking for.

“That droid may be good enough, I guess.”

Sometimes you need to help customers find the right product or service. They may think they 100% know what they want, but it may not be the best for them. It’s up to a knowledgeable sales team to know their products and provide the best solution, even if it isn’t the droid they were originally looking for.

Selling someone a bloated offering that they don’t need may provide a short-term commission gain, but it doesn’t create a true — and trusted — relationship with a client. In the long run it will make you look like the dingy used car salesman stereotype of the Jawas cruising around Tatooine in their Sandcrawler.

There is no need for ‘mumbo-jumbo’

The Force has been called “mumbo-jumbo” by several characters throughout the franchise. Notably, Han Solo doesn’t believe in it when he first encounters Obi-Wan Kenobi and Luke Skywalker in Star Wars: A New Hope.

“Hokey religions and ancient weapons are no match for a good blaster at your side, kid,” Han tells Luke.

While you may not be able to wield the Force, sales has come a long way with the advent of modern digital marketing and sales techniques.

Sales is a quantitative science. It is not a hokey and mysterious nonentity full of nothing but gut feelings and hunches (although those still have their place). The trusted “blaster” at the side of a modern sales manager is data. Use it.

You don’t have to rely on mumbo-jumbo. You have access to incredible data that you can analyze, splice, segment, and use to your advantage to help close sales faster.

Looking for leads in ‘Alderran’ places

It’s only natural for sales managers to follow industry news and be a little jealous when a competitor lands a huge client or makes headway in a new vertical. However, a smart sales manager knows that it’s better to focus on real, concrete leads that are already in your funnel rather than hypothetical ones that might as well be on the other side of the galaxy.

True, more leads in the pipeline are always good; however, blindly targeting an untested market when you have solid leads much further into your sales cycle is not the most efficient use of your time. And investing the time and resources into untested waters may lead you to sit there shaking your head for a lack of ROI.

No one wants to feel “a great disturbance in the Force” when they are running their sales numbers.

Fill your funnel, but don’t focus on the mirage of unqualified, “junk leads.”

‘Size matters not’

When Master Yoda is training Luke on Dagobah, Luke gives up on moving his X-Wing out of the swamp. “I can’t. It’s too big,” Luke says as the Fighter sinks back into the muck.

It’s understandable to think about what your “big brother” competition is doing, particularly if you are a small fish in a giant pond within your industry or market.

However, don’t focus so much on the mammoth size of your competition versus the size of your organization. Sales is hard enough: don’t create your own mental blocks. The largest companies were once small. Great companies are built one sale at a time, and the smallest companies can still land great clients.

“Size matters not. Look at me. Judge me by my size, do you? Hmm? Hmm. And well you should not.”

Yoda, Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back

‘Don’t get cocky’

When the Millennium Falcon is escaping from the Empire in A New Hope, Luke is manning one of the gunning ports on the ship and excitedly yells, “Got him! I got him!” when he takes out his first TIE Fighter.

Han quickly reins him in saying, “Great, kid. Don’t get cocky.”

When you land a great sale or a new client, it’s important to celebrate. High-five your coworker, ring your sales gong, and take a moment to enjoy it.

But remember, the funnel is always full and each potential customer should be treated as a new client you can help.

Don’t get cocky. They don’t care if you landed a huge client last week. They want to know what you are going to do for them today.

A great document will save the day

Star Wars is full of mystical elements, characters out of legend, weapons that bend the very light around them, and powerful allies that can move things with their mind.

While we all know the story, it’s very important to remember what ultimately led to the Rebellion’s victory … a document, delivered at just the right time.

Everyone knows the timeless line Princess Leia records into R2-D2: “Help me Obi-Wan Kenobi. You’re my only hope.”

Less well remembered is the first part of that holo-recording:

“I have placed information vital to the survival of the Rebellion into the memory systems of this R2 unit. My father will know how to retrieve it. You must see this droid safely delivered to him on Alderaan.”

Princess Leia Organa, Star Wars: A New Hope

The file that R2-D2 was carrying was the key to the Rebels discovering the Death Star’s weak point. Without that document, the Rebellion would’ve been crushed.

And again, in Return of the Jedi, important information was the key to saving the day. Thanks to the work of intrepid Bothan spies, the Rebel Alliance knows that the new Death Star is not fully operational. When Mon Mothma briefs the Rebels, she informs them that “Many Bothans died to bring us this information.”

Not once, but twice in the Star Wars saga an important document delivered to the right person, at just the right time, saved the day.

Never underestimate the power of a good document to change the course of a story … or your sales cycle.

John is a marketing and communications expert with an extensive background in document management, content marketing, and social media engagement. He loves good books, good coffee, and perfectly organized documents.

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