“The training is nothing! The will is everything! The will to act.” -Henri Ducard, Batman Begins

Last Tuesday, Christopher Nolan’s entire Dark Knight trilogy became available on Blu-ray and DVD.

Just in time for the Christmas season, you can now grab the entire experience on Blu-ray and relive Bruce Wayne’s epic journey from his initial criminal encounter with Joe Chill to his final confrontation with Bane.

In light of this epic trilogy’s release, I thought it would be fun to travel back to “Batman Begins” when Bruce trained under Henri Ducard (Ra’s Al Ghul), and pull a few sales lessons from the experience.

While many of Batman’s traits were already in place before their first meeting, Ducard was the lens that helped Bruce focus his fighting skills and sharpen his mental acuity to the point where he was ready to become more than a man.

Let’s do a quick review of some of Ra’s Al Ghul’s lessons and see how we can apply them in the profession of sales:

Sales Lesson 1: Getting Lost In The Scramble

When Ducard first meets Wayne in the prison cell and makes his offer, he states,

“A vigilante is just a man lost in the scramble for his own gratification. He can be destroyed, or locked up. But if you make yourself more than just a man, if you devote yourself to an ideal, and if they can’t stop you, then you become something else entirely…. A legend Mr. Wayne.”

As sales reps, we sometimes forget the real reason we started in the profession of sales. We immerse ourselves in making our numbers and focus on the dollars. We become enamored with motivational sound bites such as “your attitude determines your altitude” and “fake it ‘till you make it”. And sometimes, we even feel a false sense of invulnerability brought on by our own success, thinking that we can do no wrong. In effect, we become lost.

It’s at these times that you need to sit down and reflect on your core values. Take about half an hour every morning and perhaps some additional time on the weekend, to review your skills and abilities. Reflect on where you’ve been as well as where you are going. Take steps to prevent yourself from getting lost in the everyday scramble for your own gratification. If you do that, then they can’t stop you and you will become something else entirely.

As for the real reason you joined the sales profession, only you can know that.

Sales Lesson 2: Taking Control of Other People’s Attention

When Wayne first arrives at Ra’s Al Ghul’s mountain retreat, Ducard confronts him and says,

“To manipulate the fears of others, you must first learn to master your own.”

This concept applies to everything we do, not just fear as Ducard pointed out. Its called Success Mastery and we often overlook it in favor of a quick fix. For example, in the online Q&A forums, sales reps are constantly looking for the magic formula to get a prospect’s attention or the secret words that will have a contact mesmerized and ready to buy their service.

However, to persuade people with finesse and master the communication process of others, you must first learn to understand and master your own communication process. Join a Toastmasters group, sign up for an NLP program, or take a Dale Carnegie course. Experiment with various communication tactics and learn what works for you. Become a student of your craft and master the art of the spoken word.

Take control of the way you think and communicate right now. The rest will take care of itself.

Sales Lesson 3: Facing Obstacles

This next lesson didn’t come from Ra’s Al Ghul. It actually came from Bruce Wayne’s father but it was too good to leave out! After young Bruce is rescued from the well, his father asks,

“And why do we fall, Bruce? So we can learn to pick ourselves up”

Sales people fall constantly. On any given day, we face off against new objections, obstacles, irate customers, and belligerent leads wrapped inside our next sales call. But every fall is a challenge for us to get up and get back in the game. Every obstacle is an opportunity to learn something new.

The only way you will truly learn is when you bump into a wall and feel your limitations. The only way you will fail is by not getting back up after falling. As one of my early managers advised me, “We have to make sure that you are making enough new mistakes quickly enough. Don’t get preoccupied with one mistake or you’ll stop learning”.

When events don’t go your way and you feel like the world is whipping you at every turn, take time to examine the results you are getting, learn from the event, and learn to pick yourself up for the next round.

Sales Lesson 4: Mentorship

When Wayne starts his training regimen, Ducard tells him,

“You know how to fight six men. We can teach you how to engage six hundred. You know how to disappear. We can teach you to become truly invisible”.

Sales reps face a similar situation. We have skills and abilities that help us reach a particular level in our profession. Some of us are told that we are natural born sales reps, that we have the “gift of gab”, or that we are very personable.

However, everyone has something called local knowledge – which means you know what you know and you don’t know what you don’t know.

Your current skill set and knowledge will only take you so far. To move beyond your personal plateau, you need some outside help to give you a different perspective. You need training and education to give you more information and knowledge. You need coaching to put you on a new track. And you need a mentor give you new insight and help push you beyond your current limitations.

Find a senior sales rep in your organization that you trust. Tell him or her that you are looking for a mentor and that you would appreciate their wisdom. Attend seminars and networking events in your field where you can share ideas and insights with other people in your profession. Find a training program that develops the necessary skills such as communication skills, listening skills, and presentation skills. And find a coach that specializes in negotiation, management, and selling.

The ultimate goal here is to build a team and a support system that will help you move beyond your current limitations.

Sales Lesson 5: Timing

During Wayne’s training, Ducard states,

“Ninja know that invisibility is a matter of patience and agility”.

In business, presentations, negotiations, and especially in sales, timing and flexibility are critical. At times, sales reps will feel external pressure and rush the process to hit their number. However, successful sales reps recognize that the sales process involves other people, “active elements” in the selling process. These active elements shift and change depending on the environment and our activity.

To navigate these “active elements”, you must be patient, reading the prospect to know when the time is right to bring up the next issue, show the next feature, or move the sales process to the next stage.

You must also be flexible enough to respond to sudden changes in the process or in your prospect’s attitudes. If you want to be successful, you’ll need a solid process, but you can’t rigidly bind yourself to a script. You need the flexibility to respond appropriately to your prospects’ requests, whims, needs, and wants.

There were many other lessons in the film “Batman Begins” that we can easily map over to the sales process. You probably have a few of them at the forefront of your mind.

What is your favorite lesson from “Batman Begins” that you found most useful?

Are you ready to begin?

 Photo Credit: Warner Brothers Studios