Let’s face it: sales can be a grind.
On the bad days, there is no job as regimented, as rote or as repetitious as a salesperson’s. If you are an outside rep, your airport/flying/rental/meeting/hotel cycle can destroy one of the true joys of life. If you are an inside salesperson, you call your leads in the morning, email your pipeline in the afternoon and repeat.
Falling into this mindset is a form of living death. Your brain activity fades. Your waking hours blur. When you dream, it’s in your telephone voice. You have a telephone voice! When the bad days stack up in rows of five, when the unending stream of follow-ups, cold calls and manager check-ins become habitual, you know. You have become a “sales zombie.”
This is not you!
Your life is not inexorably like this! You might feel trapped in routine, but it doesn’t have to be that way. If you examine it closely, sales is actually the most random, freewheeling, challenging and bizarrely fun job you can have. Here are seven ways to recapture that chaotic freedom--and not one of them involves getting yelled at by your boss.
Remember We're All Human
Although you might get 30 new leads a day, 150 a week, 7,500 in a year, every single one of them is a human being. Even at the worst run companies, marketing departments don’t put dogs on lead sheets. Every single person you talk with every single day has (or had) a mom, a hobby, a tragedy, a moment of glory. Take 10 seconds before you make your next call and remember that.
Print this out and tape it to the top of your monitor: “I’m talking with another human being.”
Pay attention (no, really pay attention). There’s a lot more information available to us than we normally grasp. Did they pick up on the first ring or the sixth? Is this person inside or outside? What’s that humming in the background? People express much more to each other than we normally realize. Pay attention to your prospect’s tone and word choice. Why did they say “cold cuts” instead of “baloney”? Do they have a runny nose?
Get off the script. Drop the canned intro and the rehearsed responses. Move to a genuine conversation as soon as you can. Of course you have an objective--you want to sell this person something! But reading from a script is the worst possible way to do it. Remember: You are talking with another human being. This is what you are good at. This is why you are in sales.
Cut the crap. Bad calls, rude people, the frustrations of leaving yet another voicemail, another unreturned email proposal... these happen every day. You must become an expert in dropping the crap before you start the next conversation. Everyone does it differently--stand up, walk around, get a drink of water, joke, watch some YouTube, whatever it is. Don’t carry that crappy feeling from one bad call to another.
Clear-cut your pipeline. Your sales pipeline is like your basement--you accumulate stuff there that you think you might use. But you don’t, and more stuff comes in. One of the best ways to shake up your sales day is to blow away your pipeline. It sounds radical, but it can be liberating and productive to simply cut any deal that you haven’t worked on in thirty days. Or delete any opportunity that won’t close this quarter. Your timeframes will vary depending on your sales cycle, but be aggressive. You should aim to erase 50 to 75 percent of your total pipeline value. Now, suddenly, that cushion of imagined, delayed or doubtful deals is gone. You aren’t fooling yourself anymore.
Speed up. Sometimes you need additional speed to reach escape velocity. On your next call, talk faster than you normally do. Instead of contacting 40 people today, do 80. At 3 p.m. on a bad day, I will occasionally run from one meeting to another just for the hell of it. This is fun in airports too. Everyone thinks you are late for a flight, but you are just running for the sake of moving faster. Rapid acceleration from our normal pace. There’s nothing like it.
Slow down. Sometimes the endless attention-grabbing activities are distracting us from what really matters. Are you really spending your time working on the most important thing? We should all be more skeptical about how we use our time at the office. Is this meeting really worth 20% of your day? Pausing to consider, evaluating our activities, just going to the bathroom once a day without checking your email, all these little actions bring perspective to our work day.
Life as we know it is precious and fleeting. And remember, we sleep through a third of it. Luckily, we work in the strange, pressurized, intense world of sales. We make our companies go. We bring in the revenue that pays everyone’s salaries. It’s an awesome responsibility, and it cannot be done if we are walking dead.
So, please try these small and subtle ways to shake up your day. And, share your best suggestions for waking up below.