Another morning at the office. Cold and still mostly dark outside, I sit at my desk and reflect on the year that just ended. We had significant growth, both in terms of revenue and employees. We were recognized for excellence by industry leaders. We were even named as one of the best small companies to work for by USA TODAY. All in all, it was a good year. Hell, it was a great year for the agency. The problem is it wasn’t exactly a great year for me.
Don’t get me wrong. I'm not complaining. It was fine. But I can’t help but feel like I left some opportunities on the table, some meat on the bone if you will. A few of these were just unfortunate bad beats, something every sales person endures from time to time. Everything seems to be going right, and then POOF, the deal vanishes into thin air. Those ones hurt the most, but they are typically out of the salesperson’s control. I believe some of my year’s lost opportunities however could have been closed. Had I made the right play. Had I sent the right resource or made the right introduction, it might have been enough to push the sale over the goal line. Though I cannot change any of what happened in this past year, I can learn from it. I will learn from it. I will make a change and enter 2019 with intention. The intention to improve, both as a part of this agency and as a salesperson. And the intention to better understand, solve for, and serve our new clients.
Step 1 – Wipe your feet before you come inside
I grew up in a clean house. Correction, I grew up in an immaculately clean house. Apparently my mother grew up very differently. She was the oldest of six in a single parent household for much of her childhood, so she spent a ton of her youth taking care of her siblings. Normal things like order and tidiness quickly fall by the wayside when you are just trying to keep up and stay afloat. As a high school student and full time caretaker of her younger siblings, she didn’t have the luxury of living in a clean house. There just wasn’t enough time in the day. But she could dream, and dream she did. She dreamed of one day making a beautiful and tidy home to live in.
Fast-forward to my childhood, my house was spotless growing up. It wasn’t always easy for me to keep it that way. I took a lot of reminding. Look, I know I was incredibly blessed, but it was also challenging at times to place the same focus on keeping things clean that my mother did. I was the youngest of three boys, and I just didn’t think about that stuff, which is why to this day every time I walk into a house, I can still hear my mom shouting “WIPE OFF YOUR FEET BEFORE YOU COME INSIDE!”
My mother had to remind me countless times. “Think about what you just did. Think about what you are going to do next. Think about the effect that might have.” At the time, she was trying to get me in the habit of thinking about the fact that my dirty shoes would track up her clean floors, but I now know the lesson went deeper than that. She wanted me in the habit of being more aware of myself. She wanted me to act with intention. By that point my mother had already gone through the hassle of redesigning our kitchen. She went through a tremendous amount of trouble to ensure that they even used really fancy large stone tiles for the kitchen floor. And while she hoped it would give our home a more outdoorsy and earthy feel, the end result was that the tiles were just rocky and uneven enough to ensure that it was impossible to sweep up anything, thus her concern about my tracking in dirt.
Luckily, my mother was patient with me. She repeated this advice over and over again until it eventually sunk in. At age eleven, I thought to wipe off my shoes before coming in the house. Now, twenty years later, at age thirty-one, her message is still with me. I should always practice mindfulness and act with intention.
Step 2 – Close the door behind you
Fortunately enough, my mother’s household rules / big picture life advice didn’t stop there. After sufficiently wiping off my shoes, my mother would scream “Close the door behind you!” Apparently that was another thing I struggled to grasp as a younger child. When coming from outside to go inside or vice versa, I found it exceedingly difficult to remember to close the door behind me. I’ve found that I can be so focused on what’s next that I forget to complete what I was already doing. I know a lot of salespeople out there have the same problem. And other times we can be so focused on what we are doing that we lose perspective of the big picture. It’s important to take time to stop and reflect. I think Steven Covey said it best with his quote “Have you ever been too busy driving to stop for gas?” The new and urgent opportunities can easily distract us from focusing on what truly matters.
Sometimes you need some distance from an opportunity to be able to see it for what it really is. So while this metaphor can easily be applied to individual sales opportunities, I am mentioning it because of the importance of reflecting on the year as a whole. What were your goals? What did you hope to achieve? Did you reach your goals? If not, why? What could you have done differently to produce a different outcome? These types of questions are incredibly important to ask yourself each year. Spend some time evaluating where you have been and where you are, so you can plan the best possible road-map to reach where you want to go.
This year, I want to become a more effective salesperson. I want to improve my close percentage, so I can do more business and better help the agency from my role. I believe that if I spent time each month reflecting and writing about what I encounter, I’ll have a better pulse on where I am relative to my goals, and I’ll produce more relevant content that can be used in my sales funnels. That is my strategy for how I plan to reach my goals. So my last question is “What are yours?” If you have an answer, fantastic. If you don’t know, feel free to use this article as guidelines to create your own.