The Processionary Caterpillar Syndrome Costs You Sales?

Some years ago I read and interesting story that illustrated why many of the sales and service industry professionals that invest their time and money in my personal telephone coaching sessions ( http://www.TheSellingEdge.com/personalCoaching.htm ) have until the coaching sessions have failed to move beyond an intellectual understanding of sound selling principles. Do you have the processionary caterpillar syndrome?

The renowned French Naturalist, Jean-Henri Fabre, in an experiment with processionary caterpillars was able to entice them on to the rim of a large flowerpot. Processionary caterpillars move through the forest in a long procession feeding on pine needles. They derive their name from their habit of following a lead caterpillar, each with its eyes half closed and head fitted snugly against the rear end of the preceding caterpillar.

Fabre succeeded in getting the lead caterpillar to connect up with the last one, creating a complete circle, which moved around the pot in a never ending procession. He thought that after a few circles of the pot, the caterpillars would discover their predicament or tire of their endless progression and move off in another direction. But they never varied their movements.

Through force of habit, the caterpillars kept moving relentlessly around the pot at about the same pace for a period of seven days. They would have continued even longer if they had not stopped from sheer exhaustion and hunger. As part of the experiment, food had been placed close by in sight of the group, but because it was out of the path of the circle, they continued in their procession to what could have been their ultimate destruction.

In their procession around the pot, they were blindly following their instincts, habits, past experience, tradition, custom and precedent-the way they always had done things. In reality, they got nowhere. As the adage states, "It is a form of insanity to do the same things over and over and then expect different results."

Like the caterpillars, many sales and service industry professionals mistake daily activity for accomplishment, working hard for working smart. In my coaching sessions we use self-directed learning manuals and weekly discussions about proven selling techniques and systems to help participants change their behavior and selling activities so they can sell more products or services. To change your sales behavior you need a plan and a program to move to a new level of sales excellence like the system we use to help our clients change their sales activities.

VIRDEN THORNTON is the founder and President of The $elling Edge®, Inc. a firm specializing in sales, customer relations, and management training and development. Clients have included Sears Optical, Eastman Kodak, IBM, Deloitte & Touché, Bank One, Jefferson Pilot, and Wal-Mart to name a few. Virden is the author of Prospecting: The Key To Sales Success and the best selling Building & Closing the Sale, Fifty-Minute series books and Close That Sale, a video/audio tape series published by the Thompson Learning, Crisp Learning division. He has also authored a Self-Directed Learning series of sales, coaching & team development, telemarketing, and personal productivity training guides. Check them out at:http://www.TheSellingEdge.com/Book1.htm.

Vi rden teaches for the Center For Professional Development, Texas Tech University at Lubbock, Texas and in the School Of Entrepreneurship, J. Willard And Alice S. Marriott School Of Management at Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah. You can contact Virden at: [email protected]. or learn more about him at: http://TheSellingEdge.com

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