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June 22, 2017

You’ve Got to Do Your First Sales Year Sometime

I heard this phrase from Jimmy, one of my favorite clients. He was a top producer in financial printing sales and decided to change careers, moving into financial planning. This career move wasn’t easy, but Jimmy is an equally big success in this industry. When I asked Jimmy the key to his success, he smiled his big Irish smile and said, “You have to do your first year sometime. And I decided to do mine in the first year.”    

Sage advice, but not all sales professionals heed it. We’ve all seen the salesperson that becomes really excellent — at mediocrity. Why? Because they never complete their first year. 

So what does it take for a salesperson to do their first year, whether they are a newbie to the profession or a veteran switching industries or companies?   


I have been in the sales development, speaking and training business for close to 20 years. It’s a great business. But I’ve also seen more than one sales guru fail at this business. Their lack of success wasn’t due to lack of talent and sales know-how. It was lack of humility. These individuals just didn’t want to do the work needed in the first year to build a new business. That work is:

  • Executing consistent sales activity. A veteran sales professional might be able to bring existing clients to his new company or industry.  But the reality is that he will need to start prospecting again, doing more or different sales activity than required in his previous position.    
  • Ask for advice. You were an expert in your former business. That doesn’t make you an expert in this business or at this company. Ask and you shall receive. Hasten your learning and earning by becoming a student, seeking wisdom from peers and colleagues.   

Know your why

If you really don’t know why you want to be in sales or a new industry, chances are you won’t do the work needed to be successful. My first year in the business of sales training and speaking was tough.  I wasn’t very good, as I didn’t know how to sell speaking or training services. And to make it even more difficult, my prospects are the best salespeople in the world — VPs of sales and CEOs. 

What I lacked in skill, I made up for in knowing my why. I REALLY wanted to be in this business of helping sales teams win business more professionally, have fun and earn a great living. I really wanted salespeople to see how much fun it is being on a competitive and collaborative sales team. I really wanted salespeople to feel the gratification of helping clients eliminate problems and achieve goals.  Do you know your why?   

Manage your stress

In the emotional intelligence world, this soft skill is defined as “stress tolerance.”  Salespeople that haven’t developed this soft skill can get overwhelmed by the stress monster. Under constant stress, your body releases the stress hormone of cortisol, which makes you tired, fatigued and burned out —   not really the salesperson a prospect wants to buy from. 

The reality is that starting your first sales job or switching to a different sales career can be stressful. Apply proven principles for making the move less stressful. Research shows that one of the key ways to decrease stress is to focus on what you can control, not on what you can’t control. 

In the sales profession, you can control:

  • The amount of sales activity you execute each week and month. 
  • Blocking out your calendar to increase productivity and decrease stress.
  • Carving out quiet time in the morning to elevate your gratitude and attitude.
  • Practice, role play and becoming masterful at selling, influence and communication skills.
  • Providing better after-the-sale service. 
  • Becoming an expert in your chosen field. 
  • Hanging around people smarter than you. Offer to drive your role models to the airport, if necessary.

Notice that none of the above is affected by the economy, who is running the White House or what’s buzzing around on social media.  

Congratulations if you are moving into your first sales job or you’ve made a significant career move. Now, stop clapping and start doing your first year — this year.    

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