Some call it tilt, some call it free fall, some call it crash, some call it a tailspin but it's affected all of us at one point or another. The catalyst for these bad periods could be something in your personal life, something in the industry, something at your company or even just the stars misaligning themselves and a bunch of bad things happening in a row causing a downward spiral of frustration. What separates the good from the great from the legendary is how you get yourself out of one of these periods, and how quickly.
I remember one day I had long ago, early in my sales career. I was working in a situation where the majority of my contact was done via telephone, even though it wasn't a strictly inside sales position. I got to work like any other day, earlier than everyone else and bright eyed, excited about the day and what it would bring. I started (as I often do) with the "low hanging fruit"; the customers who are about to close and just need to get that last nudge into sending the money and signing the contracts. Well, needless to say it was a veritable night mare. Customer number one: Called my contact, he answers the phone and follows up with "I got fired yesterday. I'm not sure who is running that project now." In and of itself that shouldn't cause any problems. But...
Customer number 2: "My father in law died last night, so I need to go make the arrangements there; let's talk in two weeks". Customer number 3: "Our CFO had to leave the country on an urgent matter, let's reconvene when he gets back in 2 weeks." Customer number 4: "We had a re-org this morning, and I've been moved to project 'y'". And finally customer number 5: "Yeah, there was a corporate decision to shelve this project until next quarter. Let's talk then."
Now...none of these situations are all that frustrating on their own. But...no lie, these were my first 5 calls that day. All of which were to customers who's sales I was counting on to make my number that quarter, which was ending in 2 or 3 weeks. As you can imagine this was a bit frustrating. It put me into a brief tailspin, and I stormed out to grab a juice and cool down. When I came back to the office I found I was afraid to call anyone else right away; more bad news would not have been the right thing.
So after futzing around with some paperwork and things, I made a decision to do two things. First, I left the office and had a brisk, aggressive walk for about an hour. My goal was to get my blood flowing and my heart pumping and build a little bit of a sweat. It's always been a mood changer for me to go to the gym or get some exercise. So I figured I should do that. Plus the fresh air couldn't hurt, right? Secondly, I made a decision that as soon as I got back I would make cold calls until I recieved a positive response. Now, I hate cold calling; it is the hardest thing to motivate myself to do. There isn't a part of your day that has the potential to create angst as much as cold calling. However, the flip side is that there is nothing in your day that can be as rewarding, short of seeing the payment on a large deal come in.
During my walk I rehearsed my 30 second pitch, and determined who I was going to go after for it. When I got back, I picked up the phone, and the very first call was a success. It was enough of a success that I was actually able to run thru and complete the sale within that quarter, and it covered all the lost revenue from earlier in the day. Now THAT's a mood changer!
Obviously exercise and cold calling aren't the only ways to get out of a tailspin, and often it takes more than one or two things to do so. Here is a list of things that I use to escape when things are getting tough:
- Take a vacation. Often easier said than done, this is a sure way to allow you to clear your head. The worse the tailspin, the longer time off you should take. You need to be out of the office enough to get re-energized and to step back a bit from your troubles.
- Go to the Gym. It's a proven fact that exercise is essential and beneficial to good mental health. If you're someone who never gets exercise, do me a favour and try this, just once. When you're having a bad day, when you get home get on your bike and go for a ride if you can. If you can't, find a steep hill or large number of stairs to walk up. Or go for a swim. Whatever you choose, decide to do it and do it fully. It will hurt, it will make you wheeze and it will make you sweaty and stinky. And when you've taken a shower after and caught your breath, I guarantee that you will feel better mentally than you have in ages. Exercise does this to us. *note* don't over do it and give yourself a heart attack...listen to your body.
- Change your diet. I don't know about anyone else, but one thing I've noticed is that a tailspin and low production period tends to follow a period of excessive bad eating for me. Doctors know that bad food (besides the physical health risks) can cause mental and emotional health risks too. If you find your mindset heading to the wrong place, try taking a week where you eat low fat and lots of fruit and vegetables. It will do wonders. Part of this, yes, does include reducing or removing alcohol intake for that period.
- Try something new. Access your inner child and go somewhere you've never been or do something you've never done. This can work wonders on your mental state and has the added bonus of forcing you to think outside of your box.
- Do something you don't like. You know the old saying "Do what you fear most and you conquer that fear"? It's true. Do it. As I mentioned earlier my nemesis is cold calling. Rarely does it fail; making some cold calls always brings me out of a down period. It's probably because its like #4, and forces me outside of my box.
- Access your creative side. Write something. Start a blog. Take music lessons. Join a theatre group. Paint. Whatever, accessing your creative side should be of utmost importance to you regardless of what kind of situation your work is in. This is the root of all growth, and I can't stress enough how important it is. Me, I write or else try and create a new recipe. I know a guy who paints. I know a girl who likes to act and goes and finds a little troupe she can perform with. Failing that she takes a drama class of some kind. No matter what, accessing your creative side exercises your right brain and starts you on a path that allows you to view problems differently and come up with valid solutions. In sales, your creativity is your biggest asset and if you don't have any, you're doomed to a career of mediocrity. Do something creative.
- Learn something new. Learning new things is the ultimate way to increase your other abilities. It does the same thing as accessing your creative side, in that it exercises the brain and makes you take an objective view of problems from a new angle. As a sales person (heck, as a human!) you should be striving to learn new things anyways. So take this low revenue opportunity to learn something new.
You may notice a trend with all of these tips; they all have to do with movement and change. If you're in a rut, shake things up, darnit! Nothing gets you out of a rut quicker. Everyone in sales has had and will have periods where nothing they do works. So fix it, it's easier than you think. I've been in situations where I've had to try more than just one of these ideas, and that's ok. Heck, at the end of the day it's allowed me to grow a fair amount, and pick up some new hobbies and friends along the way.
Until next time, continue to sell with integrity.