The Successful Salesperson Chronicles - Drive and Determination | Salestrong

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The Successful Salesperson Chronicles – Drive and Determination

Continuing our delve into what it takes to be an effective salesperson, we now take a look at drive and determination.

Drive is the thing that fuels the resilience and tenacity exhibited by successful salespeople, propelling us on, even in the face of failure.  And salespeople fail.  Frequently.  Not every deal is won, not every potential new customer converted and not every target hit.

So, what’s the secret?  How can you cultivate the drive and determination needed to be a successful salesperson?

Well, drive and determination are qualities that are largely innate, however, there are some key disciplines and practices that salespeople can employ which will fuel that drive and determination and make them more effective.

Learn from your failures – Thomas Edison

The frequency with which salespeople fail has an enormous impact on their drive.  Even the very best salespeople have to learn to take the lows with the highs, but picking yourself up time and time again, or after a particularly ‘big’ fail, can be hard.  The answer lies in how you use those failures.

Thomas Edison was a prolific failer, but one who not only accepted failure as par for the course, but used those failures to inform his successes; the most significant of those being his invention of the light bulb.  Edison reportedly made around a thousand unsuccessful attempts at the light bulb, but famously said of those failures: “I have not failed, I have just found 1,000 ways that won’t work.”

Now Edison was an inventor, failure of course comes as standard in that particular occupation, but what people often fail to acknowledge is that it’s also part of the package you sign up for when you become a salesperson.  As such, the ability to apply Edison’s discipline carries great value for the salesperson.   For every deal you fail to close, or target you fail to hit, there will be a reason; “we couldn’t compete on price”, “they already have a preferred supplier”, “the market’s quiet at the moment” are some of the more common proffered by salespeople.

All of these statements may be true, but are not the reason you experienced failure.  More likely reasons are; that you did not clearly articulate the value you can offer; you did not position your self as a Trusted Advisor; or you did not adapt your prospecting model to accommodate market changes.  The salesperson who is able to identify and utilise the reasons for their failures will not only (and inevitably) become a more effective salesperson but, in being able to take a positive from a negative, will fuel their drive and determination to continue on.

Have a Killer Work Ethic – Margaret Thatcher

For salespeople, the era of ‘milk round’ selling; filling your days with coffee calls, are over.  Organisations now expect more from their salespeople – and their buyers!  Added to which, buying methods have changed dramatically, with buyers typically now completing 57% of the buying process before engaging with a salesperson.  Despite this, we continue to see alarming levels of apathy and complacency across the sales professionals we work with.  Now, whilst this is not limited to salespeople alone, the impact on this particular group is especially damaging given the sheer number of whom are required to work remotely.  Self-discipline is critical for salespeople if they are to be effective and self-discipline is largely determined by your work ethic.

Working for nearly five years as her political secretary, MP John Whittingdale wrote of Margaret Thatcher in an article in The Telegraph a few years ago “Her work ethic was legendary.”

Controversial as many of her decisions were, no-one could argue that Margaret Thatcher did not work hard, famously working through the night and functioning on very little sleep.  Her killer work ethic ignited her drive and determination and her drive and determination, in turn, dictated her work ethic.

Now, whilst we’re not suggesting you work through the night like Thatcher, a bit of self-reflection and honesty will enable you to re-discover your work ethic and re-ignite your drive.  Reminding yourself what your motivations were for taking this job and reflecting on exactly what you’re doing can be helpful.  Try asking yourself these questions on a regular basis:

  • Why did you take this particular job?  What is it that motivates you to remain in this role?  What is it you love about this job?

If you’re struggling to find an answer to these questions, then it’s probably time to move on.  But, even if your motivations are purely financial, they’re still reasons and it is those reasons which should accelerate your drive and determination.

  • Are you doing this job to the best of your ability?  Would you make the same choices/behave in the same way if your boss or a senior team member was in the room?  Are you working by the principles and work ethic you started out with?

If the answer to any of these questions is ‘no’, then it’s time to ask yourself, not only why but, more importantly, what are you prepared to do about it?

When the pressure’s off and no-one’s looking, complacency slips in.  Don’t let it.  Re-discover your work ethic and your drive and determination will soar.

Cultivate a Growth Mindset – Michael Jordan

In our last post on Focus and Motivation, we touched on the importance of a Growth Mindset in relation to overcoming procrastination as a barrier to sales effectiveness.  In fact, Mindset will be a re-occurring theme as we continue our dissection of the ‘Anatomy of a Salesperson’ because it is such a key determinant of success.

Hailed by the NBA as ‘the greatest basketball player of all time’, Michael Jordan personified Growth Mindset in an advert for Nike in his quote: “I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”

As with Thomas Edison, Jordan has been able to use failures to inform his successes, but a Growth Mindset is defined by more than just the ability to learn from your failures.  Like Jordan, somebody with a Growth Mindset has drive and determination in bucketloads because, for them, the journey to success is not finite.  They recognise that there is always more to be learnt, more obstacles that can be overcome, more feedback they can gain, more knowledge to be gleaned from others. Not only do they recognise this, but they want it and that desire manifests itself as drive and determination.

For the salesperson looking to cultivate a Growth Mindset, here are a few tips: don’t be threatened by the success of others, take every opportunity to learn from them; watch what your colleagues do well (and not so well) and adapt your sales techniques accordingly.  Take yourself out of your comfort zone and try new ways of working; if it doesn’t work out, don’t give up, examine why, make changes and try again.  Don’t give up when you come up against obstacles, persevere and the rewards will come.  Invite feedback and use it to make positive changes.  Never assume your natural ability, however high, will be enough, keep learning and striving for more.

In our next post in this series, we’ll take a look at the importance of Creativity and Innovation on sales effectiveness.

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Lee Davies

Lee Davies

Lee has had a successful career working across a number of industry sectors focusing on digital marketing, brand development and product marketing.