One of the most fun questions I like to ask salespeople is: “How did you find yourself in sales?” The answer is always an interesting one because I never hear the same answer twice. What’s the fastest way from point A to point B? A straight line, of course. But a straight line is not something that salespeople have the luxury of having in their careers. It’s full of twists and turns, and highs and lows. We need to be able to roll with the punches and keep a strong positive mental attitude toward our roles.
This is something that I learned quickly when entering the world of sales. Of course, I had plenty of people who told me “Luke, you know it’s going to be tough.” Or “You’ll get out of it what you put into it.” And of course, I had heard it all before so it was sort of a shrug off the shoulder. But wow, did those things smack me in the face like a sack of bricks. Talk about super high highs and low lows, I remember in my first week going from making my first sale to having someone actually scream at me on the phone all within a couple hours of one another. That was a shock.
As salespeople we do not have the luxury of being surprised when something out of the ordinary happens, or being able to sit and work in the same office every day, make the same commute, and know exactly what we will be doing. We have to be on our toes, rolling with the punches because we know were going to get a lot of them thrown at us. As salespeople we need to be mentally tough enough to not let undesirable things affect us.
The second thing I learned is that you don’t know what you don’t know and there was a TON that I didn’t know about sales. Like many other people, the only things I did know were the things that I was taught by my parents or the things I saw on TV. I associated salespeople with being deceitful, and pushy. However, since I didn’t have previous experience, I wasn’t technically doing anything wrong (or right for that matter). I hadn’t formed any bad habits and I didn’t know what were the right and wrong things to do and say. So, when I did start to go on sales calls and take on my own accounts, I was very cognizant of what I was saying and how I conducted myself because If it ended up being successful, I wanted to replicate that. In the beginning I was simply doing the things that my boss told me to do, I didn’t know what other things I could be doing to produce new business because I had never been exposed to them before. So, solution to this problem: ASK. If you don’t know something, ask. If you don’t know why something is done the way it’s done, ask. If you want to do something but don’t know if it’s the right or wrong thing to do, ask. Be vulnerable.
The third thing I learned was the importance of work ethic during work hours and non-work hours. If we think about any other profession in the world, there is always room to get better. The same goes for sales. Let’s take football as an example. During the 2018-19 NFL season there were on average 70 plays a game. Now let’s say that a player is either on offense or defense which means we know that one player has roughly 35 plays on average per game. Each play averaged about six seconds. Therefore, a single player has 3.5 minutes to make a difference in a game. Think about all of the hard work that goes into those 3.5 minutes per game: training camp, practice every day, late night film sessions, early morning workouts, etc. – all for 3.5 minutes. As a sales professional, we should be putting in all of that same hard work so that when we get to our game time, which would be an opportunity in front of a prospect, we can perform to the best of our ability. This means that I’d stand in the middle of my living room and record myself roleplaying different situations. I’d rather make a mistake while practicing than in front of a prospect. In sales, our days are not 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM. If a prospect calls at 7:00 PM at night, we need to be ready for that phone call. I learned very quickly to put in as much “practice” as a professional athlete would.
The last thing I learned was the power of discipline. Before sales I came from a job where I simply did what I was told. I wouldn’t know what I was doing that day until my boss showed up in the office and told me. Now in a sales role, I was provided the freedom of creating my own schedule but still expected to hit my goals. It’s like moving from high school to college. One moment you do what you’re told and the next you have complete freedom. Discipline will free you, not hold you back. By this I mean that I never miss a meeting, an event, or a training. I am disciplined with my schedule to start at 8:00 AM every morning, to follow my sales process, make my calls, ask for referrals, etc. And by being disciplined enough to do these things it allows me to be successful. Don’t worry about the outcome of every opportunity, worry about following your behaviors which you know will get you to your goal. That was an eye opener.
Being new in sales is not easy, but that is no reason to scare anyone away. I have grown more in the past two years than the previous five due to being in a sales role. It allowed me to learn new things about myself and quite honestly, it’s fun. I don’t know about you but I’d rather have a job where I can control my own destiny than a job where I am told what to do day in and day out. I control my success now.