I just got off the phone with a top salesman. He earns well into the six figures and is everything you would want in a top performer. He's enthusiastic, disciplined, loyal and knowledgeable. But there's a problem. He told me he's bored and that business is slow. He said he was frustrated and didn't know what to do next. I've known this fellow for a long time, and I'd never seen him so down. So when he asked me what I thought he should do, I gave him advice that has served me well over the years. It's simple, but it works. I told him to go out and make some personal calls on current customers and prospects. That was it. He didn't need to see a psychiatrist, and feeling sorry for himself wasn't going to help one bit.
How do I know this works? Because it's happened to me many times. At first I was as mystified as my friend seemed to be. But I learned quickly that those personal calls can perform miracles. Many salespeople would be surprised how quickly revving up to make a call can remove a doom-and-gloom malaise. Salespeople need to work hard to stay sharp. Sitting around the office slurping coffee and shooting the bull with your colleagues clearly won't lead to high productivity. It only leads to a slump. If you're truly a sales professional, you make personal calls your top priority. That's what the profession is all about. And using the telephone or e-mail just won't cut it. You have to hit the road.
One day many years ago I was in a funk. I had argued with my wife that morning, my car needed a new transmission, and my career wasn't progressing well. So when I made it to the office, my mood was pretty sour. I told a couple of my buddies how I felt. Instead of making calls, I was going to sit in the office and do some paperwork. That didn't help, and I only became increasingly frustrated. So I told one of the older salespeople in the office how I was feeling. He listened to my tale of woe very patiently and then told me a few things that woke me up. "You're feeling sorry for yourself, and that's OK for about 30 seconds. You're spoiled. It's as simple as that," he told me. "Let me tell you how lucky you are. You work for a great company that pays you well. They publish some of the finest trade journals in the world, and they do it the right way. They give you all sorts of support, and they give you freedom. You live in a nice suburb, and you have an attractive wife, who seems to be crazy about you. Furthermore, you have the privilege of calling on some of the best customers in the world. They need what you sell to continue to be successful. They need you, and you need them. Stop sitting around being a prima donna, and get out there and mix it up with your customers. They are literally waiting for you!"
He was so right. I went out and made two calls that afternoon. I even got an order. But what made me feel better was the stimulation of visiting the people who make it all worthwhile-my customers. And they did need me. They needed me to show them how to move more products by advertising in my magazine. We bring value to them. Too many salespeople see selling as a one-way street: Customers buy from them, and they make a commission. Salespeople who think that way will never enjoy much success.
Sure, there are a lot of cynical people in sales. They look at their work as something of a con job. They think selling means pulling the wool over a customer's eyes. They're the lowest of the low. They are not professionals and should be run out of the business. Fortunately, they usually don't last long. The real sales pros are those who believe a crucial part of their job is helping clients move more goods and services. Customers love it when you pay a call offering them something that can help them make their enterprises more successful than ever. They might even give you an order. That should change your attitude pretty quickly. Give it a try.
Remember to be grateful,
Charles S. Lauer