Updated: May 23, 2022
After getting married in 2010, I knew that it was time for me to get serious about my future and how I was going to take care of my family.
So like many others, I chose to start a career in sales for the promise of a flexible schedule, but mostly the unlimited earning potential.
I started in packaging distribution sales, and like others before me, was given a sales plan, a territory with ZERO customers, 5 days of product training and a “Get After It” pat on the back.
I was told that my focus needed to be on business development, so I spent most of my days making cold calls at plants and hitting the phones like crazy.
What I discovered was that while those activities were needed, I wasn’t really progressing.
I felt stuck. Frustrated.
And If I’m honest….
How To Get Ahead
It seemed like I kept asking myself the same questions over and over again.
“How do I not only hit my sales plan, but finally start making money?”
Which led to….
“What was I doing wrong?” “Was I cut out for sales?” “Did I pick the right industry?”
I kept being told that it’s a numbers game and that if I just focused on picking up new business, I would start blowing my numbers out of the water.
But the more I focused on opening new business, the more I lost customers from a lack of attention.
I would take one step forward and then two steps back.
What I quickly realized is that outside of a select few packaging reps, who were crushing it and making great money, most were like me, constantly chasing their sales plan and never enjoying those huge commission checks you hear about.
So what were they doing differently?
Here’s what I noticed:
They rarely, if ever, made cold calls. Most of their new business came through referrals.
All their customers were similar.
They had very deep relationships with multiple levels of stakeholders within their customers.
Their conversations with their customers weren’t product focused. They were goal focused.
They rarely won or lost business based on having the lowest price.
They didn’t ever wear socks….. I’m still trying to figure this one out.
I knew it was time to do something different. It was time to stop spinning my wheels and actually move in the direction I ultimately wanted.
It was time to take what I had learned from observing the sales professionals that were killing it in my industry and create a plan so that I could do the same.
What Do We Do? - It was time for me to really drill down into what we did well as a company. Instead of throwing as much stuff against the wall as I could, trying to see if it stuck, I needed to know our core competencies so I could focus there and stop the wild goose chases.
What Kind Of Business Do We Best Serve? - Building my ideal customer profile and finding those customers in my territory was next. Once I knew where we provided the best value, I needed to find out who we best provided that value to. I wanted to make sure that the customers I was targeting were a good fit for me, and me for them.
Aim Small. Miss Small. - I had a list of over 50 potential targets that I was constantly pursuing. I would maybe call each target once or twice a week. It wasn't working. I needed to create a targeting strategy that didn’t suck all the time out of my day and allowed me to target fewer companies more often.
Who Do I Call? - I realized that I needed to build deeper relationships in my customers. I typically had a single point of contact in a customer and that needed to change. I began to identify all of the stakeholders in a potential customer that could buy, benefit or influence the purchase of my product, services or solutions.
Where Are You Going? - Instead of searching for pain, I realized it was better for me to begin discovering the goals they had for their organization. This allowed me to find where we could partner with them and help them, but also what challenges and pains they were experiencing striving for those organizational goals.
This framework changed the interactions I was having with my customers. A few months after this change, I began selling more, not just in new business, but within my current customers. I was also able to increase my profit margin and drastically reduced my churn.
I no longer felt stuck or out of place in sales. As a matter of fact, I started to begin feeling like sales wasn't just my professional career choice, but was my calling. I discovered that when I put my customer first, and really discovered who I could best serve and how, my joy meter was typically pointing towards full.
If you found this newsletter helpful, please comment or share. If you have questions, please feel free to reach out to me.