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6 Life Lessons from a Life in Sales

Updated: May 29, 2020

Recently, I did a keynote about personal and professional peak performance. In that talk, I shared six life lessons I've learned via 25 years of bag carrying, teleconferencing, cubicling, and negotiating:

  1. Increased confidence brings increased capacity. I've sold newspapers, jewelry, gym memberships, and business solutions of all shapes and sizes. When you truly believe in what you are selling, it is a lot less like "work." A great product is energizing. In order to sustain that energy, we have to invest in ourselves: physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. We need to be a great product too.

  2. Organization makes the difference. There's always one salesperson on the team who makes the numbers but is also a disorganized mess. The truth is, they could really blow it out of the water if they got some systems and process to go with their talent. Yes, true life balance is internal. Still, consistency and good habits are absolutely critical to achieving our highest potential. Life is too short to "just make the numbers."

  3. S/he who controls the agenda controls the outcome. My goal as a salesperson was always to lead the customer down a specific path towards what I want as next steps -- whether it’s the contract, the next meeting, more information, or whatever. If a prospect wanted to get lost in tangents and down rat holes, it was my job to get us back on track. In life as well, we must set our intention and have a plan. Follow a course that leads to the ideal outcome. Absolutely listen and learn along the way, but know when someone or something is bringing you off course. Then, make a deliberate and mindful decision about whether you want to go down that new road. Beware "shiny object" syndrome. Don't become a victim of your own brilliance. Plan your work and work your plan.

  4. Show me you know me. There is nothing more annoying and nonproductive than talking to a salesperson who knows nothing about your business (or you). Take the time. Do homework. Be thoughtful. Listen. Listen. Listen. Even now, my goal is to be someone that people want to talk to more; not someone they want to avoid. In business and in life, success can be measured by the relationships we build. As a side note, a former boss once critiqued my sales presentation, writing in giant letters on my copy of the deck (while I was speaking), “TOO JOLLY! BE MORE SERIOUS!!!" Despite the admonishment, it ended up being the first deal I closed for the new product line. For me at least, jolly usually works.

  5. Fill the pipeline. We need to be thinking both short-term and long-term. All the time. For better or for worse, this too shall pass. We should appreciate the good times but not use it as an excuse to be lazy. Likewise, everyone goes through “slumps." These pass too. Keep moving. Keep pushing. Do the things now that your future self will thank you for. >

  6. Ask for the business. My very first job was at a mall clothing store in Suburbia, USA. Although they called me a “sales" clerk, all I really did was stand around, watch people look at the clothes, and hope they’d buy. It was easy, but not very rewarding. My next gig came with much higher expectations as well as scripts. I got to say awful things like (insert cheesy sales voice), “So... will you be buying a one-year or a two-year subscription today?” Still, it helped me.

Bottom line, both personally and professionally: We have to ASK for what we want. Whether it’s our partner, our children, our boss, or the universe, we have to put it out there. Explicitly. Even when you don't think you should have to. You do. ASK. BELIEVE. RECEIVE.

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