A few months ago my article was centered around the number one sales success factor: hard work. Again, that assumes you have at least average intelligence and work on the right things. That said, being successful in sales also requires that you possess another key character trait: self-discipline.
Self-discipline is important because it ensures that you do the hard work every day whether you feel like it or not, because there will be days when you don’t feel like it. One of the most difficult paths a salesperson maneuvers is that of staying motivated throughout the day. The amount of rejection a salesperson faces, along with the other ups and downs of the job, coupled with natural physical cycles or periods of low energy, all negatively affect motivation levels causing it to ebb and flow. Because of this, motivation cannot be relied upon to get you to do the work you need to do every day. A far more reliable source for getting us to do what needs to be done is self-discipline. Self-discipline is a habit that once installed, will take over and automatically lead you to do the things that need to be done regardless of how you feel.
In order to install self-discipline, you begin by showing up with a plan that you can follow every day. You need to have your annual sales goal broken down into the activity it’s going to take to get you there. In other words, how many sales do you have to make, how many people do you need to talk to in order to make that number of sales, and how many calls, follow-up calls, e-mails, mailers, and other forms of contact do you need to make in order to talk to that number of people? Finally, what do those daily numbers, that daily activity look like? These need to be specific measurable tasks. For example, you might have the following goals for Monday through Friday: make ten face-to-face calls a day, make 20 follow-up phone calls, send 20 follow-up e-mails, and send out five pieces of mail and three thank-you notes.
Once you have the plan to follow, you acquire self-discipline by strictly following that plan every day for three months or so. You do whatever you have to do to achieve those goals no matter how you feel and no matter what happens during the day. So, in other words, if you didn’t get a great night’s sleep, or you had an argument with your spouse, or a flat tire on the way to work, or you have a couple of customer emergencies during the day, you still find time to get all of them done. If for some reason, you’re unable to get them done on a particular day, the remaining items carry over into the next day, so that hopefully, by the week’s end, you’ve hit your goals. If not, they carry over into the weekend. If not the weekend, they carry over to the following week. If you can continually hit your monthly numbers for three months in a row, self-discipline should begin to become a habit and at that point and you’ll find that, even on your worst day, you’re able to get done what needs to be done. If you’ve heard me speak, you may have heard me tell the story of the top sales rep at a Fortune 500 Company who got in a car accident one day and totaled his car and yet was able to jump in a cab and finish making all his scheduled sales calls and prospecting calls that day. In fact, he even saw the advantage of being a little “beat up” and used that to his advantage to get into two doors that had previously been closed to him.
The way self-discipline works is that if you’re showing up every day and making the calls day in and day out, after an average time of three months, self-discipline becomes a habit, it becomes automatic, so when you do have a tough day, you’ll still show up on that tough day, put your game face on and do what needs to be done. And if you can simply do that one thing. Show up every day, especially on the tough days, and do what needs to be done, you’ll be light years ahead of pretty much everyone, you’ll be extremely successful. And by the way, willpower does work. Look, if you’re on a diet, you’re either going to eat that donut or not eat that donut based upon a simple decision that your spouse, your boss, and the competition has nothing to do with. It’s a simple decision one way or the other. Studies have shown that people are able to willpower their way through things for three months or more, while the new behaviors become a habit. Once they become a habit, we no longer need to rely on willpower, we’ll start to feel out of place and uncomfortable when we’re not doing the newly installed activities, that’s when you know they’re now a habit and part of you. And remember, we don’t always have control over our emotions or even our thoughts, but we always have control over our actions.
So, self-discipline requires that you have specific, measurable, daily goals and that you doggedly pursue those goals on a daily basis refusing to procrastinate or get distracted. With strong self-discipline, you’ll keep going regardless of what happens to you.
#1 Sales Rep w 34+ years’ experience, Author of the 2010 sales book of the year: Sales Encyclopedia (Axiom Book Awards) – also the largest sales book on the planet (678 pages).
John Chapin is a motivational sales speaker, coach, and trainer. For his free eBook: 30 Ideas to Double Sales and monthly article, or to have him speak at your next event, go to www.completeselling.com. John has over 34 years of sales experience as a number one sales rep and is the author of the 2010 sales book of the year, Sales Encyclopedia (Axiom Book Awards). You can reprint provided you keep contact information in place.