A story from my past …
A number of years ago I was working in a sales role with a system integration company, focused on selling large solutions to the Federal Government. I had been tracking and positioning to win a large project for a couple of years and finally the RFP came out. The time to respond was several months, with the inevitable extensions but ultimately I delivered a huge proposal (filled the back of my Jeep Cherokee) on the submission date.
For months I had been consumed by this bid, and worked on literally nothing else.
A few weeks into the evaluation period the Feds cancelled the project.
The impact was painful. I was a commissioned salesperson and the best part of my year had been taken up focused on just one big prize … and while I felt very confident in our chances, I’m sure the competition were equally confident.
There were a number of lessons to be learned from this story.
1. Sales is a process and the work you do today will pay off at some time in the future, and depending upon your typical sales cycle that may be weeks or months away. If you are not doing the right things today (and I was doing nothing but that bid) you are going to be in a world of hurt tomorrow.
2. Putting all your eggs into one basket is dumb. It seems so obvious, but it happens all the time. Is your company dependent upon one client or even one industry? As a salesperson you need to diversify your sources of revenue.
3. Success is as much about your state of mind as it is anything else. After the rush of the bid, negotiating with partners, months of meetings understanding the client’s real needs before the bid hit, understanding the competition, getting company approvals and support and then working long hours to ensure our bid was the right quality I was tired. When the decision came down I found it hard to even know where to start again. If I had not been so focused I would at least have other opportunities “in the hopper” to pursue.
4. Time management is critical to success. If I had organised my time correctly I would have set aside time each week to pursue other opportunities, to meet other clients and to keep my sales funnel going.
5. Sometimes we need help. No matter how good you are, or how strong, sometimes you need support. I was lucky to be with a great group… my boss was supportive and my fellow salespeople helped me to “get back at it”!
Sales is a fantastic career, but you always need to be working towards the future … or you will pay for it.
Kevin Dee is CEO of Eagle (a Professional Staffing Company)
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