This is an original piece of content written by Nikki Matarazzo.
Sales is the activity or business of selling products and services. When people are asked to say the first word that comes to mind when they hear the word “sales”, you often hear “stressful”, “lucrative”, “hard”, and “time-consuming.”
It’s the “lucrative” piece that draws people in. We all work to make money, and it’s true, you can make a lot of money in sales – when you are successful.
That said, with great reward comes great risk (T. Jefferson), which includes not hitting quota and making much less money than expected. Money, whether we like it or not, is a behavioral impetus. It drives the way we feel, the way we think, and how we act.
In sales, money is the carrot dangling on the string. It hangs right in front of us, motivating us, defeating us, driving us. There is always another carrot to chase, more sales to close, more money to make.
This cyclical nature of sales and constant chasing of the carrot can leave us stressed, worried, and even desperate. We, as sales professionals, are in an infinite pursuit of an ever-moving, often constantly growing, target. Never really sitting down to enjoy the reward, never really taking a breather on the sidelines to catch our breath.
Always Be Selling… Always?
Imagine being a runner who never stopped running.
Imagine being a runner who had the mentality of: the more miles I put under my feet, the better time I
will get in the race.
So, that runner decides to run 16 hours a day, eating only on-the-go food packs, tethered to a Bluetooth chip in his/her ear to communicate with his/her loved ones. The runner would eat while running and sleep the minimal requirements to start again the next day.
What do you think the outcome would be?
I mean, for a runner, it seems obvious. You are probably rolling your eyes right now, thinking “that’s ridiculous”. A runner can’t run 16 hours a day, every day and think that that is going to make him the fastest runner. There is so much more that goes into it.
He needs to refuel properly with real food and real meals. The runner needs to watch videos and learn from others about running techniques and training regimens. He needs to understand what to focus on when in training and how to overcome obstacles and hardships.
To be a successful runner, you need to do much more than just run. A successful musician needs to do much more than just play. To be a successful surgeon, you need to do much more than just operate.
So why is it, that in sales, we have this idea that we must “always be selling” to be a successful salesperson?
This notion in sales stems from the expectations that are put on us from others (leaders and peers), and the expectations that we put on ourselves. However, I am a firm believer that we have the power to change things.
At this point, I would like to say that I have been in a sales organization for 5 years and am constantly
learning about this world. What I do know is that I believe I have established some best practices for
myself to minimize the stress, the worry, and the desperation that tends to brew in some sales people.
My goal as a person is to live the happiest life that I can live, while making a living, hitting quota, satisfying expectations from leadership, and satisfying the needs and expectations of my customers. Most importantly, the goal is to do all of this while happy.
If we are lucky, we are on this earth for 70/80/90 years. Why spend two thirds of your day selling while stressed, worried, and desperate? Let’s look at some best practices to alleviate these feelings. We’ll call them: Six Best Practices to Living Your Best Life While Retiring Quota
1. Know Your Why
Why do you do what you do? What is driving you to be in sales and to make the money that you are making? I can tell you, it is not just for the money. Money is a means to an end.
You must understand your end to justify your actions to yourself every day. That “end” is unique to each person. It could be “to support my family in their athletic and extra-curricular pursuits” or “to travel the world to live a life full of adventure” or even “to have a home and live a life of stability”. Whatever your end is, you must know it, so that on those hard sales days, you understand the deeply rooted motivation for doing what you do. Your why justifies what you do.
Understanding your why will bring you into a state of consciousness and only then can you start to influence your habits of thought. Only then can you change your stress into excitement and your worry into certainty.
2. Set Reasonable Boundaries – You Teach People How to Treat You (T.Gaskins)
What are you willing to accept as a sales professional? What are you willing to give? How available are you willing to be?
You need to know the answers to these questions so that you don’t fall victim to 3am fire drill e-mails or raging phone calls from customers for not responding to an e-mail within 10 minutes.
When Tony Gaskins said, “you teach people how to treat you”, what he meant is that we teach people what we are willing to accept from them and what to expect from us. Once we teach them these boundaries, we give them permission to hold us accountable to them.
Therefore, if you teach people that you are going to answer your e-mail at 3am or have a 9-minute SLA, then they are within full right to get angry or frustrated when you do not adhere to the unwritten agreement that you created for yourself.
Set reasonable boundaries with your leadership team, your peers and your customers. Make these boundaries explicit and hold yourself accountable to them. Teach people what to expect from you, adhere to that unwritten agreement, and those fire drills and unrealistic SLA expectations will dwindle.
3. Open Lines of Communication
Keeping open lines of communication with your leadership team, your peers, and your customers is key in establishing trust and fostering positive relationships. Trust and positive relationships are positively correlated with decreased stress.
Open lines of communication may mean weekly calls, monthly updates, or necessary texts and e-mails when something goes astray. Often, when problems arise, it is not the problems in themselves that cause stress, it is the lack of problem resolution that causes stress.
Problem resolution begins with open communication. Lay your cards on the table, always. Be honest and seek help often. In sales, people are still people and people everywhere appreciate honesty and communication.
4. Sell Something You Believe In
This best practice may seem like a cop out, but it makes sense, doesn’t it?
In sales, we sell products and services to people. If we believe in the product and the service that we are selling, will truly resolve a problem or generate a positive outcome for the people that we are selling it to, we can feel good about influencing positing change for the people that we interact with every day.
According to a study published in the Clinical Psychological Science journal, relieving the impact of stress on health can be accomplished through helping others. Therefore, if you find a product or service to sell that you can truly stand behind, the simple thought of knowing you can help others can help alleviate the stress associated with the act of selling.
5. Your Life Is More Than Sales
As a sales professional, you are going to miss quota.
There are so many factors that can affect you missing quota. You may not be trying hard enough or the socio-economic climate of your territory may not be conducive to buying “right now.” Your competitors may have come to market with a better product or your product may not be well-positioned in your industry. Even your quota may be unrealistic for your territory and set of customers (yes, I said it).
Some of these factors are within your control and some of them are not.
Step one: focus on the factors that you can control (ie. if you are not working hard enough, work harder).
Step two: understand that your worth and value as a person, a mother, a father, a sister, a brother, a daughter, a son, a friend is not determined by how much you overachieve by.
You are going to have great sales months and you are going to have not so great sales months. That’s ok. You are more than your sales and if your daily behaviours align with your why (see 1.), you will succeed and achieve your end.
6. WORK HARD
You would think I wouldn’t have to include this last one here, but to be clear: in order to live your best life while retiring quota, you HAVE to WORK HARD.
This reigns true in any profession; however, in any other profession, the consequence of not working hard does not necessarily directly impact your pay check. In sales, it does. Let me restate that: if you do not work hard in sales, you will not make money. You will not obtain your end (see 1.).
Therefore, this best practice proves to be the most important one of them all. If you do not work hard, the previous five best practices will not alleviate your stress, your worry, or your feelings of desperation.
Are you able to look in the mirror at the end of every day and say, “I gave it my all today?” Are you able to say, “I did everything I could do to meet my objectives, my customer’s objectives, and leadership objectives?”
Working hard in sales can come in many forms, but let’s keep it simple. Call your customers, visit your customers, and help solve their problems. If you can align your behaviours every day with these three behavioural habits, you are off to a great start.
These are six of many best practices to living your best life while retiring quota. Some may work for you and some may not, so why not give a couple a try?
According to Lori Richardson, “[s]elling is really about having conversations with people and helping improve their company or their life. If you look at it like that, selling is a very admirable thing to do.”
Be proud of your role and your power to influence change. Know your why, set boundaries, keep your lines of communication open, sell something you believe in, know your worth, work hard, retire quota and live your best life.
About the Author – Nikki Matarazzo
Nikki Matarazzo is an outside solutions sales specialist for Dell Technologies. She believes in providing organizations with the right technology to help people be productive and happy in the workplace. When not on the road in sales, she spends time competing in CrossFit and helping people maximize their full potential through her mindset development platform, Think Out Loud Co.