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Saturday, May 26, 2012

I'm in Sales. 7 Things I Learned This Week.

I do sales to make my living.  I could probably argue that you do too but that's for another post.  Mine is a straight up commissioned sales job.  What I make is in direct proportion to what I sell.

I laugh a little bit thinking about the various images that each of you had when you read that about me.  Sales has such an interesting reputation overall.  I'm sure some of these hit your heads:
Wow, that sounds hard.
ewwww, that sound horrible.
I wonder if she makes a lot of money.
Images of used car salesmen (not that there's anything wrong with that)
Some of you may trust me a little less now.

It's interesting, the reaction people get to sales.  All are based on your own experiences with this occupation.  And sadly, there are some pretty awful sales people out there ruining all of our reputations. One of my favorite clients heard me introduced as a sales person one time and she quickly said, "Do not call Rebecca a salesperson!  She is our Client Partner!" I still smile thinking of the look on my "ex-colleague's" face.

I'm very careful to manage my relationships with my clients.  If I provide them something of value that they want or need, there should be a fair monetary exchange for that product or service.  No harm, no foul.

So I work my tail off to make sure I'm providing something of value to them.  Valuable to THEM.   Which means I have to take me and my sales quota out of the picture and focus on THEM.  That's the mistake some sales people make.  They are so focused on hitting their own number and their own paycheck they become that creepy sales person that some of you pictured earlier.

I found myself in an interesting situation the last two weeks.  I'm having my most successful sales year ever in my career. (Insert sounds of horns blowing, champagne corks popping, and many high fives all around).

However ......... a sales person's work is never really done.  No rest.  Ever.  My compensation plan is aligned with the publicly traded world and I must hit a sales quota every quarter.  While most of my big stuff had hit in every other quarter but this one. Leaving me a significant gap to close.

Gap to close is a sales person's worst fear and nightmare.  It puts that "add value to the client" success factor at a huge risk.  Big dilemma.

Sitting at my desk on May 1st looking at the Grand Canyon of gaps to close by May 25th I had some decisions to make. 

I'll spare you the suspension and tell you how this ends. 

Closed the freakin' gap.  The Grand Canyon Gap.  The holy crap are kidding me gap.  My husband, who has far too much belief in my my abilities, even stared at me with his mouth open last night because he couldn't really believe it happened.

Here's what I learned in the process.

1. Decide early.  On May 1st I gathered my team and decided.  We're going after this.  Hard.  With passion and purpose.  Decided.

2. Reputation is still our #1 priority.  We decided to close the gap but we didn't decide to become slimy sales people to do it.  If it was to be done, it was to be done with integrity and our reputation for being focused on customer value still number 1.  I wanted my reputation as a producer inside my company to remain intact.  Yes, I had a quarterly bonus on the line, but that couldn't be the main driver.

3. Do the Work.  I alerted my family that the next few weeks were going to be tough and I needed their support.

4. Have a plan.  I quickly scoured my set of tools and lists for a winnable game plan.  I found promotions the customer would appreciate, made a list of customers that would resonate with the promotion.  And we went to work. And prayed all throughout.  A big part of my plan.

5. Build a good team way before you need them to be good.  I work with a couple of gals that I'd take into battle with me every day.  They are smart, talented, fearless, and fun.  We could not have done this without working together.  We all work from different offices but we're a cohesive team, a sisterhood with a passionate pursuit of excellence.

6. Communicate the plan.  Every day, sometimes multiple times per day I communicated the scoreboard, where we were that day, where we needed to be and how we planned to get there by the deadline.  I updated those spreadsheets and lists like Rainman. On the final days we were on the phone strategizing, planning, readjusting, every couple of hours. When we lost deals, we moved them off the list and quickly went back to what was still possible.  We did have one text exchange after a big loss that had lots of metaphors about piles of stinking dog poop but then we moved on.

7.  I pictured winning every day.  They say pro athletes visualize winning the race before it ever begins.  I've always done that.  If I can't picture myself winning, I know I'm in trouble.  When I can, I'm relentless. I don't want to just play a game. I want to play a winnable game.  I saw the plan, I saw what was possible, and I knew how we could get there.  Now just GO.

I went to bed last night early.  exhausted.

I was shocked that we had accomplished such an unbelievable feat.  Then I lie there and had a mini panic attack.

I went through each client interaction in my head and asked myself, "did I sacrifice my relationship with them or my reputation in ANY way."  Because no sales goal would be worth that.  I literally back tracked through the entire list and made sure.  It was agonizing.  Why couldn't I just celebrate the win.  Because the win only matters if you come out a winner.  You can hit a sales number and still smell and look like a loser.  Never confuse the two.

So last night at dinner I said to my kids, I accomplished an amazing goal today and here are the main three things I learned:

1. Believe.  In yourself, in your team, in what you do.
2. Pray.  About it all.  Not the outcome you're looking for.  Pray that He's on board with it too.  If He is and you're willing to do the work, and it really his His plan, He'll take you there.
3. Be nice to people all the time.  Some of the people that purchased things from me this week, I haven't talked to in a few years.  But when I had talked to them last, I had been nice and added value and that's what they remembered about me. 

So Monday morning, new quarter, new goal.  That's a sales job for you.