My first job out of college was selling for an independent electronic business phone system company. Long before the days of Cisco and Avaya, I was selling phone systems and the hot new innovative product — called voicemail — in the SMB space. This was in the late 1980s, so the only way to find business was referrals and cold calling by foot or phone.
During my first three months on the job, I witnessed four sales people in my office being fired because they weren’t hitting their number. I was absolutely terrified and convinced I was next, even though my pipeline was growing and management was encouraged by my progress. I can still remember looking up at the white board on display for all to see near our sales pin over my muted aqua blue “Nerf” cubicle. It had everyone’s sales numbers and percentage of achieved quota on it. I was near the bottom of the stack. “Please god, don’t let me get fired!” I pleaded internally. Fear was a great motivator for me – I ended up having an outstanding year and hit over 200 percent of quota.
Looking back on it today, I realize I learned many valuable lessons that I still use today. Along with the lesson that fear is an incredible motivator, I still benefit from these techniques:
- Find a successful mentor or someone from whom you can learn. You will find that their attitude combined with their smart work habits will serve you for a lifetime while saving you the misery of learning them the hard way. Make sure they show you how they do it, not just tell you.
- Keep an open ear and mind when selling. I cannot count how many little gems I have picked up over the years from other sales people around all things sales.
- Don’t dismiss observations. Have you ever thought that there might be a better way to present your product or thought you could approach new or different targets, but dismissed the observation because you convinced yourself you were too new or a beginner? Stop doing that! New perspectives are one of the major corner stones of all innovation and inventions. Work your observations – a different way of selling, messaging differently, new ways of networking, etc. – into your daily activities to see if they ring true.
What lessons have you learned from your previous sales experiences? Share them with us in the comments section below.