One day I will retire from being part of the workforce and although I don’t know what kind of legacy I will be looking back at, or what success I will have had, I can say for certain that, what will be going through my mind will be…”it’s been emotional”.
That’s because I work in Sales.
There is an emotional roller coaster that all sales people are riding on a daily basis and I am no exception. I love finding innovative solutions to market problems, converting opportunities when there appeared to be no chance of doing so and most of all, feigning modesty when I’m acknowledged for my achievements.
However, with all the successes I’ve had so far in my sales career, there have been plenty of failures, whether it be missing out on a new business opportunity, losing an existing customer or failing to inspire a team I was leading, I have had to deal with my fair share of disappointments.
So, I’ve learnt that although failure is part of the journey, just like success is, it’s how I react to the failures that will contribute to how successful I will be as a sales person, which is why I do the following 10 things to get myself out of a slump following a disappointment in sales;
1) Open up a blank Word document
Victory has 100 fathers and defeat is an orphan, J.F.K.
Accepting that failure is; lonely, part of a journey and that getting out of a slump is up to me alone; I start by writing down how I feel at my lowest point. I write down my self-doubts, my concerns and my perceived failings, so when the next time I fail (which is part of life), I can look back at what I wrote and remind myself that I’ve been here before and I got out of it. It’s a message to me to harden up.
2) Tell the world to F**k Off!
I’m 39 years old and I’ve learnt to accept that I cannot stop how I feel. I can manage my emotions and I can understand them, but I cannot switch them off, because I am a human being.
When I face a failure, I have tried to be stoic, ignore it or let it go, but I have found the best thing to do is start by accepting how I truly feel, which is gutted. And, when I’m gutted, I am angry. When I get angry, I like to vent my anger to those who understand that I’m not looking for a solution, but I just want to let off steam, my family or friends.
So, to be crystal clear, I am definitely not suggesting that you swear at your manager, or your client, but don’t be afraid to share your true emotions and vulnerability with those that you trust.
3) Look out of an aeroplane window
I always feel my holiday starts when I look out of the window, see the ground drop away into the distance and with it, my stress levels.
Why? Because, I’ve managed to get some perspective on how insignificant (in the grand scheme of things), that work issue I was worrying about for the past week or so, actually is.
I managed to separate my personal life, from my professional one.
My guess is that most of us can’t just take a holiday whenever we choose, so looking out of an aeroplane window is just not a practical option to maintain perspective, so instead we have to think of other ways to remind ourselves that a failure in a professional capacity does not make us failures as people.
I personally, look at my email signature and then look at the title of my role. I then remind myself that my role title is NOT my name. My role needs to get out of a slump, not me.
4) Release some dolphins
My five year old daughter asked me why I always go swimming or running in the mornings and I said it was to “release some endorphins”. What she heard was the above.
Before I can think about moving forward, I always need to recharge the energy batteries which have been drained by the recent failure I’ve faced, so I have to do some exercise to get energised.
Not all of us are runners or swimmers, but there is something that you already do, from which you get reenergised, whether it is walking your dog, listening to music, or meditating. Make time to do it and do it regularly.
You’re going to need to fuel for the journey ahead.
5) Dust off the war medals
I keep a folder in MS Outlook which is labelled ‘Achievements’.
It contains emails from clients awarding me new business, staff members saying ‘thanks’ and sometimes just well written email communications that I personally have been proud to send.
When I begin questioning what value I’ve added to a client or company, or when I get some bad news, I know that the worst thing that can happen, is that I start criticising my own ability and losing self-belief.
Self-belief is one of a sales persons fundamental attributes and when that is damaged, sales performance will very quickly follow suit.
For me, keeping an achievements folder is something that I can refer to in times of need, to remind myself that I am good at what I do and that I can add a lot of value.
6) Press the reset button.
Like waking up the morning after a hosting an awesome party, there is normally plenty of tidying up to do after the event.
A sale is similar, because it’s a journey of highs and lows and when the going is good, I can sometimes tend to concentrate on delivery and conversion, rather than preparation and organisation.
When a slump event (wakeup call) forces me to stop and look around, I realise that I feel disorganised, messy and cluttered, which hinders me from gaining clarity on my next course of action.
That’s when I press the reset button.
I close my office door, put up a ‘do not disturb’ sign and begin by tidying my desk. Next it’s my email inbox, which I start to declutter by deleting or filing anything that does not need a response, then it’s the turn of all the files saved to my desktop because I was too lazy to save to the hard drive.
Lastly, I write a to-do list. This will map out what my next course of action is.
7) Start building momentum
My pride will always push me to try and focus on winning the next big thing to try and prove myself again following a setback, but my experience has taught me to be patient and get in the right positive frame of mind and not rush to get back to where I was.
The reason is because I am more than likely going to fail, because I’m reacting rather than responding.
Instead, I start building my momentum with smaller wins.
This way my confidence is slowly restored with minimal risk to the bigger opportunities on the horizon.
Be it a responding to emails, carrying out a new promotional analysis on Excel, or moving prospects through the pipeline.
Start building the foundations, before you try and to build the skyscraper.
8) Carry out a post-mortem
You can’t safely move forward unless you understand what went wrong.
Now that I have started to feel more confident following the first 7 steps, I am normally ready to face the issue that got me in the slump in the first place and I’m also in the right frame of mind to analyse the issue objectively, which means I can look at what went wrong.
I go through all the email communications, playback the conversations in my mind and look at the feedback that the customer may have given me in relation to the bad news.
The most important thing I do in this step is to get a trusted colleague or manager to critically review what I did, to see if they can see something that I missed.
No-one likes criticism, but it’s better to learn and get better, than make the same mistakes again.
9) Make that change.
Following on from point 8; if you’ve identified a mistake, put in mitigating steps to avoid making that mistake again, no matter how unlikely it is to happen.
If you lost a customer, put in reminders to keep in touch with that customer until the next contract review.
If you missed out on a new customer because your proposal lacked something, take the steps to improve the next proposal with the appropriate parties in your business.
Even if you have reviewed everything and found nothing, still change something.
For me, if I can’t pinpoint what went wrong, then I just mix things up to keep things fresh.
If I normally make phone calls sitting down, I’ll stand up to make phone calls. If I carried out business development activities in the afternoon, I’ll shift the calls to the morning. If my team aren’t hitting their numbers and I don’t know why, then I’ll change the format of our sales meetings.
10) Get back in the water.
Last summer I went with family and friends to a beach up on the Tutukaka coast and whilst there, one evening we saw what we believe to be a Thresher shark. It was beautiful, yet scary.
Having just started ocean swimming, I knew that the next morning I had to get in the water, otherwise, I would not only be hesitant for myself, but I’d also be instilling my fears into my daughters. So I went for a swim and I survived.
The same goes for Sales, the same goes for all of you.
Just because as sales people you and I may have faced the dreaded ‘F’ word (Failure), doesn’t mean that we’re no good at it and that we should stop selling stuff.
That’s what being a sales person is all about; overcoming the fear of failure and continuing to push forward.
Get back into the water.
Once again, thanks for taking the time to read this article and if any of you sales people are feeling like you’re in a slump and haven’t got that person you can vent, share or bounce ideas off, then feel free to get in touch with me and I’m happy to make time to have a confidential chat.