I was attending my first trade show with a company many years ago. I had just committed to move to a new city and was very nervous. Everyone was friendly, but I felt alone, and was unsure if I had made the right decision.
A fellow sales rep then approached me unexpectedly late in the first day, and took me under his wing for the rest of the event. He made me feel welcomed, and instantly put me at ease! For the next four days I had somebody that I was comfortable around, and could ask them any questions, no matter how silly they seemed at the time.
That event inspired this list, and I have always remember my colleague fondly for helping me out!
#1 Ride-A-Longs With Top Performing Sales Reps – I was just there to observe, nothing more. I once flew across the country and spent one day each with the top two performers in an organization.
#2 Working With A Mentor – It was great to have somebody to go to when I needed them, and not feel like I was being a bother. Helping me when necessary was part of the “mentor-newbie deal”.
#3 Joints Calls With A Sales Manager or Senior Sales Rep – I may have taken the lead on a call, but it was comforting to have them there if I needed any “back-up”. In the event a call was more complex, they would take the lead, and I would be there for support
#4 Guaranteed Salary and/or Commission As A New Rep – This was a game changer for me! It took all the pressure off at the start of a new role, and I could focus on learning the complete job for the foreseeable future. I had a guaranteed salary in one role for the first year and my results far exceeded budget!
#5 I have several other thoughts, but wanted to leave this one up to you. In your experience in sales, or what you have witnessed being involved in business, what else has assisted new sales reps to get acclimatized in their role?
When I was selling in a retail market many years ago, it became common knowledge that one of the chain stores had a simple selling strategy:
- “Make sure that you sell to the first person that walks through the door every morning. It will set you up for the rest of the day.”
Really think about that for a minute. How different would their mindset and attitude be if they had a great start to the day? Don’t get my wrong, I am not asking you to beg for the sale, or hang on to their leg as they try to leave the store. But you get the idea!
For sales reps, business people and anyone trying to sell “Widget XYZ”, listen up….
You should have laser focus from the moment the calendar changes to a new month, and start that selling period with a “Bang”! A strong first day or two (or even a week) sets you up for the rest of the month. You will feel more confident, have a bounce in your step and presentations will flow more naturally. Heck the challenges won’t even feel as painful! You won’t feel as much pressure to sell, because you are already well on your way to reaching the monthly goal.
Think back to those months that you had a fantastic start vs. a poor one. One felt great while the other one felt like the weight of the world was on your shoulders. I can vividly recall having both types of feelings, and one is obviously better than the other!
Sales is a lot like sports, and when you are “feeling it”, good things happen.
Try “feeling it” when you have only achieved 25% your monthly goal with three days left in a month. OUCH!
Get in the mindset that NOTHING will get in your way to starting a month with a “Bang”!
Don’t get distracted in the office doing busy work and returning email. Focus on a detailed sales plan for that first week and don’t deviate from being in front of customers unless absolutely necessary.
I would love to hear if a very focused sales strategy for the first week of every month helps your results. Keep me posted – I would love to hear from you!
Or Do You Actually Bring Something To The “Business Party”?
I am going to have a recurring theme on my blog called “Tough Love Lessons”. I will warn you in advance, they tone of these posts will be “in your face”, and may not apply to you. But there are people out there who need wake up calls in a variety of areas. If you know anyone who this applies to, please share the post with them.
For those of you who are already in the sales profession, or are thinking about a sales career, there are many opportunities to entertain customers and/or prospects. Events like lunches, dinners, golf tournaments, and trade shows are very common.
These are excellent opportunities to get to know people better, but there is also the potential to embarrass yourself! If you have consumed too many refreshments (or whatever else), you are going to look very silly.
Many people have gotten a “pass” at least one time in their careers for foolish behaviour, but if it becomes the rule that you are the “life of the party”, your credibility is thrown right out the window.
During my career, I have often laughed at the comment,
“He’s a great guy (or she’s a great girl)” for one reason……
But there is usually a “BUT” after.
In this scenario, the sales rep is great to socialize with, but they don’t really bring anything to the “business party”. This is a horrible stigma to have during your career. They are fun to be around, but they are not doing their job! OUCH.
Doing your job to the best of your ability is why people should remember you first.
This is not a 9-5, Monday to Friday type career; so if you are thinking about the profession for “free fun”, think again. There is so much more to it than that!
If you get a bad reputation early in your sales career, you are done. I have seen it happen, and don’t think that you would not be blacklisted as a “party-rep” too.
Oh yeah, one last thing….
You never want to be remembered as “that guy” or “that girl”.
This is the person that was a “memorable fool” at a business event, and people talked about them for years later when recalling the stupidity that transpired.
Never be that person who is late for a trade show or training sessions that management has paid good money for you to attend. Drag yourself to the event no matter what, or you may be looking for a new job sooner than later.
One of the professional hockey teams that I follow closely have had consistency issues all year. It is hard to believe that they are still struggling considering they were awarded the #1 draft pick three years in a row!
It has become increasingly clear over the last while that there is one glaring issue that plagues the team. They have too many of the same players. The team is one-dimensional. The skilled players are very talented but are too small and don’t have grit. At least some players need to possess all of those characteristics.
This situation got me thinking about sales teams and corporations in general.
How effective is a sales team if there are too many hunters or farmers, or perhaps too many quiet reps or outspoken ones?
A good mix of players is an integral part to a healthy, vibrant team. The team needs to feed off each other’s strengths and support each other while improving their weaknesses.
What about for a corporation in general?
If the sales department is performing well, but manufacturing and accounting are a mess (as an example), there will still be struggles overall. If manufacturing is firing on all cylinders, but everything else is having issues, the company is still “broken”.
I have always been a huge proponent of “temporary job trading”.
Do the role of somebody in a different department for even a day to get a better understanding of what it takes to perform their job. Maybe you won’t get so annoyed with them, and have a new appreciation for what they actual do!
Work to cross-train employees so they aren’t so one-dimensional. There will be a greater chance of mutual respect within the team if they have a true understanding of what everyone else is doing each day.
Sports teams, sales teams, and companies as a whole thrive when everyone is working together. Diversity within a team is healthy, and understanding what everyone’s roles are reduces tension within the group.
Think back to the controversies that are often made public when certain superstar players don’t make an olympic or other highly competitive teams. On the surface it looks like a glaring omission. In reality it is a strategic move by the management team to put other role players in that position. A team cannot be made up of only superstars. It rarely works, and the odds are against from the get-go.
“It’s The End Of The World”?
This is a post that was originally written and published about this time last year. I thought this would be a good time to bring it to everyone’s attention again. Hope you like it!
With the 100th anniversary of the sinking of The Titanic this past Sunday, I thought it was time to turn some old notes in to a post!
I might be the only person in the world who has not seen the Titanic movie starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet. But I do know that Leo screamed, “I’m the King of the world” in a pivotal scene. That phrase inspired this post.
I had a funny thought one day and combined “I’m the king of the world” with “It’s the end of the world” as a way to remember to keep emotions in check when performing a sales role.
Keeping control of emotions has been integral to my success in recent years. I have always tried not to get too high, or too low whatever the situation has been. Of course, I still get excited when I succeed, and disappointed when I fail. But I try to “limit my rides” on the roller coaster of emotions.
I am not saying don’t get excited when great things happen, or upset when things don’t go your way. I focus on minimizing the peaks and valleys. Once I accomplished this, I did not feel as emotionally exhausted at the end of each day.
About three years in to my tenure with one organization, the bottom fell out. I had a drastic drop in sales with a key account, and the reason for the decline was out of my control. It really did feel like “it was the end of the world”. I was miserable for what felt like weeks, but realistically was only days.
I had a brief meeting with my boss during my “pity party”, and agreed that there was nothing that could be done about what had transpired. We decided to focus on growing the business through other channels. Remarkably when the dust settled by year’s end, my numbers had increased year over year! I refocused after the setback occurred, tweaked my goals and ended up having a record year for the territory.
Emotion is great, and those who know me well are aware that I have always worn my heart on my sleeve (just ask anyone who has played hockey against me). You are only as good as your next sale, so keep moving forward. A loss or setback is like a bad shot in golf, tennis, or a goalie allowing a bad goal. Forget about it and move on quickly, learn from it, and stay focused.
With respect to wins, don’t get overconfident. Things can change quickly in sales. Keep focusing on securing more wins and building on past successes. It is just important to realize that if you “ride the roller coaster of emotions” too often, you are going to get off feeling very very dizzy!
My son played his first season of baseball this past spring. For many other kids on the team, it was their first season playing as well. It was a much different experience for everyone as compared to the kid’s first go-around with other team sports like soccer or hockey.
With those other sports, the concepts were pretty simple in theory as the kids could get out and chase the puck or ball and just spend time familiarizing themselves with the games and being part of a team.
Baseball was a totally different story. Batting was mostly straight forward for them, but fielding was an adventure! All of the parents and coaches were doing their best to help out, but the poor kids were always very confused from the moment the ball was hit. Although quite funny on the surface, you had to feel for them when they all froze in place. Their “memories seemed to erase” and never knew what to do when the ball came their way. At one point or another, most of the parents wished they could get out on the field and make plays themselves!
As I reflected back after the season, our expectations for the kid’s performance on the field was way too high, especially early on. We were asking them to complete very difficult tasks with many people trying to give them directions in pressure packed situations. I did not even start playing competitive baseball until I was 9 or 10 years old.
The first coach was unable to handle the anxiety of helping the kids get up to speed. The second coach was awesome! They stepped right up and said that the kids needed “one voice” to listen to. From that moment on, things ran much smoother for the rest of the year, and the team won a bronze medal at the year-end tournament.
That story inspired this post, as I related it to being new to a sales role or the profession in general. Most of the parents were guilty of expecting more from the kids then they were able to give early in the baseball season. Many sales managers and executives are guilty of doing the same with new reps.
I am a firm believer that the pressure to perform should be minimal for new reps as long as possible. Three months should be the bare minimum that a rep focuses on learning everything about their new role, and not have a manager looking over their shoulder and expecting immediate results.
The “learning/training phase” should be even longer for new reps to the profession. Sales can be generalized as an easy job where you can make a lot of money, but new recruits need to understand that a lot goes on behind the scenes to be able to do “fun stuff” like take customers out golfing, or have long lunch meetings!
Product knowledge is typically the focus for new reps, but there are many more aspects of being a territory manager that need to be analyzed before being “thrown into the wild” and expected to come back with orders. It is not realistic, not fair, and is one of the biggest reasons that new reps quit in such a short time.
Most companies are continually under pressure to put up numbers, and that unfortunately comes at the cost of giving new reps the training and support that they need from the day they start the role.
I would rather sacrifice sales results in the field while new reps gets their feet wet, and properly equip them and held grow their confidence so when they hit the road, they are ready.
The most common words coming out of a sales manager’s mouth should not be,
“How can I help you close that order?”
That makes them a one-dimensional leader.
If a manager wants a rep to prosper and succeed long-term, they will help them dig deep in to all aspects of the role, understand their territory, customers, support staff and company. Then, AND ONLY THEN can they start talking about getting in to the field and securing business.
- What training have you received for a new role (other than product knowledge)?
- Have you ever quit a sales role and realized later that you did not give it enough of a chance?
- When should new reps start focusing on actually closing business?
Eve reached out to me a few weeks ago interested in guest posting on leadership. I was more than happy to oblige. Check out her incredible take on health and productivity!
The modern world is increasingly doing studies on the link between health and productivity. That is hardly a new concept. The phrase “A sound mind in a sound body” is quite old. In general, we all know that if you are sick, in pain, or under the weather, you will not be at your most productive. But what seems to not sink in is the idea that if you really want to excel at sales or in leadership, you really need to be working towards optimal health, not merely avoiding sickness.
Instead of talking in generalities, let’s take one person as an example. Let’s talk about actor, producer, and businessman Will Smith. He has made Fortune’s “40 Under 40” list. He is the first actor to have eight movies in a row bring in more than $100 million. He came from nothing and is now worth millions. He is viewed by many as an inspiration and role model for minorities. His list of personal accomplishments is quite long.
Focus on Will Smith
Will Smith has said “The only thing that I see that is distinctly different about me is I’m not afraid to die on a treadmill. I will not be out-worked, period. You might be more talented than me, you might be smarter than me, you might be sexier than me, you might be all of those things you got it on me in nine categories. But if we get on the treadmill together, there’s two things: You’re getting off first, or I’m going to die. It’s really that simple, right? You’re not going to out-work me. It’s such a simple, basic concept. The guy who is willing to hustle the most is going to be the guy who just gets that loose ball. The majority of people who aren’t getting the places they want or aren’t achieving the things that they want in this business is strictly based on hustle. It’s strictly based on being out-worked; it’s strictly based on missing crucial opportunities. I say all the time if you stay ready, you ain’t gotta get ready.”
More than an actor
As indicated above, everyone likely realizes that Will Smith is not just an actor but he is a leader in many ways: A producer, founder of I’m more than one company, community leader and so on. If you have ever seen him work the crowd at a red carpet event, you should realize he is also a consummate salesman. That is part of why his movies make so much money. So when he talks about hustle, he doesn’t just mean “work hard.” He also means you need to sell yourself. Constantly.
What may not be obvious is that in order to have the attitude he has, the first thing he needs is the physical stamina necessary to run you into the ground or die trying. If you have seen him in “I am Legend”, a movie filmed in his late thirties, you have seen with your own eyes the kind of phenomenal fitness he has. Similarly, he trained for months to put on the muscle necessary to portray legendary boxer Muhammad Ali. People who are not super healthy don’t do things like that. They simply can’t.
Health and fitness
So if you want to be a great sales person or leader, you first need to be the best that you can be. And that starts with being as healthy and fit as possible so you have the physical energy and mental focus to out-work others, to recognize opportunity when it presents itself and quickly take action, and to be as presentable and attractive as possible. The reality is that both sales and leadership are about influencing other people. Someone who is healthy and fit is far more personable than someone who is not.
Think about this: Shaking hands is a basic symbol of both friendliness and deal-making. People have to touch you to shake your hand. No one wants that if you are ill. Even if you are in good health generally but know there is room for improvement it can be a good idea to take a medical test to highlight where best to prioritize, be it diet or fitness levels. A routine lab test can highlight any problems or deficiencies you may have meaning you can take measures to address these under the advice of a medical professional.
So get cracking. Watch what you eat. Take your vitamins. Hit the gym. Get on that treadmill. Make sure you are healthy enough to be the last one to get off it when you are up against the competition. In other words: Every day.
If you are interested in having Eve guest post on your blog or website she can be emailed at: firstname.lastname@example.org
This video discusses some similarities that I see between playing golf, and the sales profession. A golf hole is not complete until the ball goes in to the hole, and a sale is not complete until the customer commits!
Take some time to think about this as you play your next round of golf, or attempt to close your next sale! Have a great day…
I really enjoyed this post today on making sales communications more engaging. I hope you do too! Have a great day