When I first started out in sales, I always felt like an underdog. I was scratching and clawing to make ends meet, and each sales opportunity seemed like a battle. Honestly, it was overwhelming on many occasions to feel like an under-achiever.
It turns out that people respond to pressure in different ways. Some people, when they start to feel overwhelmed, fade into the background, not wanting to bring attention to the fact that they are struggling. As for me, increased pressure tends to make me more indignant. If I am going to fail at something, I would rather go down in flames.
Thus, on January 1, 1988, I made a career-changing New Year’s resolution. I had just finished yet another mediocre sales year, and damn it, it wasn’t going to happen again. So, I headed to the office on New Years Day. While everyone else nursed their post New Year’s Eve party hangovers, and watched college football, I cleaned out my office. I worked the entire day and got seriously organized.
It was no surprise that my SUV was the only car in the parking lot since it was a holiday. But by the time I left the office, I felt a very clear sense of satisfaction and preparedness. I was ready for the New Year.
Have you ever noticed how good it feels to be ahead of the game? That first week of January, everyone else was trying to catch up, while I was moving forward and feeling productive. In fact, it felt so good that it motivated me to want to stay ahead. Consequently, I often stayed at the office late into the evening and came in frequently on weekends, each time noticing that mine was the only car in the parking lot.
My strategy was simple. I was determined to outwork everyone else on the sales team. That way, if I did fail, I wouldn’t have any excuses. Besides putting in the time, I also made it a goal to work harder than everyone else. I made more cold calls than anyone else and scheduled more appointments. I also asked more questions in order to uncover more needs. I even made it a point to take the most notes at every meeting.
After a very short period of time, I had become more knowledgeable about our product offerings and target industry, which in turn, made me a much more credible resource to my prospects and customers. As the year progressed, I began to feel less overwhelmed and more in control.
It didn’t take long before I became the “go to” guy in the office. When someone had a question, they came to me for help. Lo and behold, the sales manager started sending opportunities my way, knowing they would be handled with a greater sense of urgency. By year-end, I had become the top producing salesperson in our office. Essentially, I had earned the right to outperform everyone else whose car wasn’t parked in the lot back on New Year’s Day.
*Excerpted my second book, It Only Takes 1% to have a Competitive Edge in Sales.
2009 was a difficult business year for many. If you were fortunate enough to not among the masses who saw declining opportunities as the result of a recent back-flip in the economy, I’m sure you have customers, friends, colleagues, employees, or coworkers who have felt the impact in a very personal way.
Perhaps the economic gods with wave a wand and return everything to normalcy. Me, I’m not sure what normal is at the moment, nor have I ever been one to bet my lot on magic.
I have said before, “The best way out of any recession is to sell your way out.” The difference this time is the game of selling has changed—I call it a Darwinian-style recalibration, where the salesperson will play a more important role in their own success than ever before.
With that, I hope you enjoyed a nice holiday break with your friends and family. But, please realize that the new sales year begins tomorrow. Me, I might dedicate some time to get a jump on the competition because who knows, they might be reading this as well!