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  • Writer's pictureBill Petrie

Unpopped Popcorn Kernels

What they can teach us about sales

For years, popcorn has been the clear snack of choice in my house. Sometimes, it is the microwave variety, but the preferred method is making it the old-fashioned way: in a pot with real oil, butter, and popcorn salt. We even own a dedicated "popcorn pot" for that single purpose.

The challenge of popping your own popcorn is that you end up with a ton of unpopped kernels – much more than when a bag is popped in the microwave. It's easy to approximate how many kernels have not transformed into their delicious, puffy state by the mocking sound they make rolling around the bottom of the pot.

Many years ago, my twin boys (who were nine at the time) were confused as to why so many kernels simply didn't pop. In my fatherly way, I tried to explain that there likely wasn't enough moisture in the kernels to produce the necessary steam to cause the explosion required to transform them into tasty popcorn. While the explanation was factual, they still couldn't quite grasp that the anticipated amount of popcorn was much lower than the expected amount. Everything had been done correctly: high-quality raw materials were used, the appropriate amount of heat was applied, and the correct amount of fat was used to facilitate the process. Even so, the yield was still off about 15%, which made them feel ripped off.

Turning a prospect into a client can feel much the same way: a prospect is engaged, a relationship is built, a problem is identified, and a seemingly perfect solution is presented, but the sale doesn't close. Many salespeople find themselves obsessing over sales that should have been made – those unpopped popcorn kernels at the bottom of the pot. In that frustration, they lose sight of the sales they are making by focusing on the negative outcomes rather than maximizing the positive ones.

Like unpopped popcorn kernels, some clients just aren't ready to pop – and never will be. While there may be an explanation, many times, there isn't. At some point, you must move on from lost sales and focus on getting the most out of the clients that can fully blossom.

There comes a time to simply throw away the unpopped kernels and enjoy the popcorn.

An earlier version of this blog originally was posted on PromoJournal.

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