Why is it that so many salespeople start their selling careers with a great deal of enthusiasm—truly motivated to grow, to succeed, and to advance their careers—and then, somewhere along the way, the motivation fades, and the “career” becomes little more than a job…a way to make a living?
What happened to the motivation?
Motivation is not a capricious feeling that comes over us when we least expect it or disappears when we most need it. It’s a feeling that begins, and is sustained, by a process which we control—a process that starts with, of all things, curiosity.
When you’re curious about something, like a new job, you want to know more. So, you seek out information—knowledge about the company, the products you’re selling and the customers to whom you’re selling them, as well as the competition you’re selling against. The more you learn, the more interested you become; and the more interested you become, the more you want to learn.
So, what brings this self-perpetuating cycle of growth and motivation to a halt?
At some point, usually around the one-year mark, you realize that you’re doing a fairly good job. You’re earning a living; you’re beginning to consistently make your monthly quotas; and you’re even giving advice to other salespeople. You still have the opportunity to participate in training and obtain additional education, but you don’t seem to feel the need. And, with family responsibilities, community activities, and of course, the obligatory (?) golf outings with your key customers, you can’t find the time.
Several years pass and the job has become just that, a job—something you have to do, rather than something you look forward to doing. Your five years of experience has actually been one year’s experience five times over. That’s because the moment you stopped learning, you stopped growing. And, when growth stopped, so did motivation.
So, how do you maintain motivation (or regain it if it’s slipped away)? You must continue to learn, to enhance your skills, and to gain knowledge about your company, your marketplace, and your products. When you continue to learn, you maintain interest, facilitate growth, and most importantly, perpetuate motivation.
Logic or Procrastination?
On Monday morning, you look at your calendar for the week, and there it is, with a big red circle around it—a reminder that your territory expansion plan is due on the sales manager’s desk by Friday morning. You’ve completed much of the preliminary work. But, you still have a dozen or so customers to contact, some figures to compile, and a spreadsheet analysis to prepare.
It would make sense to get the project finished, get it out of the way, and not have to worry about it all week. But, Mondays are especially hectic. You have a weekend’s-worth of e-mails to read and replies to compose; just as many phone messages to review and return calls to make. And besides, you have two pending deals to keep track of—deals you expect will close at any moment—and make sure they don’t get bogged down.
Without question, there are too many distractions for you to give your undivided attention to completing the territory plan. Logic would suggest that tomorrow would be a better day to finish it.
What happens when Tuesday rolls around? Tuesdays aren’t immune to phone calls and e-mails. And, you’re busy with other things. One of the deals you expected to close on Monday did indeed close. In order to ensure that the implementation of the sale goes smoothly, you have a number of follow-up activities to attend to. And the other sale you expected to close…you need to keep tabs on that, as well. It appears that there are as many distractions on Tuesday as there were on Monday. Perhaps, Wednesday would be a better day to finish up the territory plan.
You know where this is going, don’t you? Before you know it, it’s Thursday and you still haven’t finished the plan. Is Thursday a better day than Monday, or Tuesday, or Wednesday to complete it? No. In fact, it’s a worse day because now you’re under time pressure you didn’t have earlier in the week. Additionally, you’re frustrated and angry with yourself for putting the task off until the last minute.
The decision to postpone the completion of the territory plan from Monday to Tuesday, and from Tuesday to Wednesday was based on the perception that each subsequent day would be less busy and would allow you to devote undistracted attention to the plan—a strategy which, logic suggests, would enable you to work more productively. But, was it logic, or was it procrastination cloaked by a self-serving perception?
The way you perceive the things around you has a direct bearing on the activities in which you choose to engage, which in turn, impacts your productivity. When you’re making decisions about where to invest your time and energy, make sure that your perception of the situation reflects things as they really are…and does not distort them to support, at the expense of long-term productivity, a course of action that in the moment would be considered to be more desirable.
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