Over coffee last Friday a coaching client of mine told me about an RFP he was excited to answer. “It’s in our wheelhouse, but I have to go soon so I can get the answer out. It’s due today and they are making a decision Tuesday.”

I responded that I could see why he was so excited and asked him a few clarifying questions including:

  • Who are your competitors? Um, I don’t know.
  • Do they have a prior relationship with the prospect? Blank stare.
  • How many individuals and what are their roles do you know at the account? Just my one contact.
  • Have you asked to meet with all the decision-makers before agreeing to answer? No, she answered every question I had about the work they need.
  • If there are competitors, how can the prospect possibly make a decision in one business day? Mouth agape.

I then, gently, told him that I was worried he was suffering from a common sales affliction: Happy Ears.


Disease: Beatus Aures, Latin for Happy Ears

Population Afflicted: The class of people generally known as salespeople, but also can afflict corporate executives or anyone else ever involved in a sales call.

Pop Culture Corollary: See Gigi Philips character played by Ginnifer Goodwin in the 2009 film He’s Just Not That into You. If you’ve seen the film you know Wikipedia nails it
not into you: “Gigi is a single woman who repeatedly misreads mundane actions and comments from her dates as indications that they are romantically interested in her…”

Symptoms: Exuberance, often emotional and irrational, surfacing immediately after engaging in a seemingly great sales conversation with a prospect, but lacking factual evidence of such excellence.

Causes (Examples):

  • Salesperson receives inbound interest from a lead, has a positive conversation about his offerings, but fails to ask among other things, “Why the prospect is interested in the first place and why now?” Result: Beatus Aures
  • Salesperson hears flattering comments about his offerings and rushes off, usually the phone, without qualifying the prospect as a potential buyer. Result: Beatus Aures
  • The salesperson gets a request for him to provide something such as a demonstration or a reference, delivers, yet fails to ask for all evaluation proves steps. Result: Beatus Aures
  • The salesperson is asked about price, but fails to ask if his company has been selected. Result: Beatus Aures

Manifestations: Over-forecasting, confidence, possibly even hubris. Could negatively impact sales costs including time wasted by subject matter experts.

How to avoid Beatus Aures:

Within every interaction or conversation, ask yourself, “What do I need to know to justify my optimism and positive movement of this opportunity?”

After all sales calls, meetings, or interactions, salespeople must take a brutally honest approach to analyzing every interaction within their opportunities. If this is difficult at first due to an overly optimistic disposition, enroll the help of a skeptical sales manager or coach. Draft a set of questions to ask yourself when justifying moving a forecasted opportunity through the sales process.   Consider such questions your milestones or signposts to pass.

Cure: While there is no known cure for Beatus Aures (Happy Ears), the symptoms can be controlled through healthy skepticism and preparation.

My coaching client summed it up well: “I need to ask all the questions around the opportunity, not just about the work I hope to end up doing.”

SalesReformSchool Food for Thought 

I went through a values exercise last week in which I documented my SalesReformSchool core values. I found this exercise extremely clarifying.  I came up with these five:

  1. Brutally Honest (some are calling it Radical Candor, a book I want to read)
  2. Coach or Teach with Passion
  3. Continuous Improvement
  4. Client Immersion/Intimacy
  5. Custom and Over Delivery

I intend to check in with some clients to make sure they agree that professionally I am following through on my core values. Interestingly, these five seem to be my five personal core values as well.   Hmm, I guess I need to check in with friends and loved ones to make sure I am living them as well.

What are your professional or personal core values?

SalesReformSchool: Extracurricular

I am usually rather light-hearted in this area. This month, though, I am closing with something more serious.

A friend of mine is going through a hard time. A few weeks ago he shared with me all the crap he’s been dealing with. It’s not pretty. It’s also not the end of the world for him. He followed up with a note that he was sorry he unloaded everything on me. I told him I was grateful he thought enough of me to unload all his pain. I suggested he try to recognize that by talking about things, he was in fact on a path to recovery and that he should be grateful that he is, in fact, on that path. And yes, it’s better than not being on a path.

Gratitude can be a huge part of the healing process. I did not come by this wisdom on my own. Rather, I read this New York Times piece.   So, when you are down, ask yourself, “What am I grateful for?” Your answer will start the healing process. If it doesn’t and maybe even if it does, consider seeking professional help and at least a friend.
Good Selling!
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