When I first started in sales, I worked for a major corporation in a remote sales office. The company called it an area sales office (ASO) as we had a large number of reps, sales specialists, managers, as well as sales support spread out over a large geographic area and the ASO was the central point. The office, although small, had sufficient space for customer meetings and it was equipped with most of the products we sold. Due to this setup, whenever we needed to do a presentation, demonstration, or customer event, most of the folks had to drive up to 3 ½ hours to participate.
One time when we had just introduced a new product, I scheduled multiple customers to come in for presentations and demonstrations. Since the product had just become available I had arranged for the sales specialist to do the demonstrations. Well the day comes and guess what, the sales specialist decides not to show up. Being a sales neophyte, I didn’t know the product and I hadn’t been through training, so to say the ol’ Zim-Master was caught with his proverbial pants down would be an understatement.
Of course I tried to fake it and do the best I could but it was a serious train wreck. At the end of the day, as I sat there, feeling completely devastated and very frustrated, I decided to make sure that I never, ever, would be in that situation again. I made a vow to myself that, from that point forward, I was going to be a self-sufficient sales guy.
I promised myself that I would no longer have my success controlled by the actions of others. I decided right then and there, that I would be the very best sales professional I could possibly be. I was going to be the specialist, the “expert”, and I adopted a “whatever it takes” attitude. From that moment forward, my mantra would forever be:
“If it’s meant to be, it’s up to me”
If a new product or solution was rolled out, I was the first one in and the last one out. I made sure that if I sold it, I would know it, inside and out. I spent my nights and weekends reading all the various product information, the launch guides, the selling guides. I spent countless hours studying, learning, practicing, and perfecting the demonstrations.
I researched my competition and want to know their capabilities, strategies, and sales tactics better than even they would. I worked hard to discover where and who their customers were. What type of solution they were utilizing, how they were utilizing it, and all the specifics related to the contracts. (Expiration dates, how much they were spending, etc.)
I even took the time to understand the different vertical markets I served. What were the key applications, uses, and customer value that was derived from the different solutions? How to position the offering and who in the organization would be involved.
The approach I took then (and still take today), may to some, seem very obvious but it’s not the path that everyone chooses. To be a truly great sales professional, it takes time, discipline, and an unyielding commitment to excellence. It’s not an easy path, but if it was meant to be easy, it wouldn’t pay the way it does.
When I look back to that day, I see a moment defined. Yes it was humiliating and embarrassing, but an important lesson was learned. It taught me what it takes to be successful. But the most important lesson I learned was that as a sales professional, your success is up to you and only you. Sure there are folks along the way that contribute to the cause, but ultimately, “if it’s meant to be it is up to the” (me).