Growing Sales With Self-Discipline
In sales, most of us know what we need to do. Yet sometimes, we don’t do it. Often, we call it a lack of motivation. In truth, it’s likely a lack of self-discipline. Some days it can be harder to overcome these challenges than others. We may tell ourselves we don’t have the time or energy, or we are too stressed out. When we believe these excuses, our sales results suffer. In this article, we will discuss how we can neutralize those self-limiting emotions that hinder our sales results by developing self-discipline.
It Starts in the Mirror
Whose responsibility is it to improve your sales performance? If you agree that it’s the person in the mirror, you are on your way to self-improvement. As salespeople, we set standards for ourselves that end up producing our sales outcomes. These standards can be set by default, by your sales manager, or by your company. Alternatively, it could be set by ourselves with a disciplined and deliberate approach. But either way, by default or by discipline, we’ve developed a sales standard that produces our sales outcomes.
Let me give you an example. It’s not uncommon to see sales reps consistently perform at a certain level. New hires come on board and produce in the same ballpark because they see other sales reps at this level. It’s the exceptional sales rep that comes in and shatters the previous sales record because they had different standards. It’s not unlike the 4-minute mile. Until the 4-minute barrier was broken by Roger Banister in 1954, no one thought it was possible to run a mile faster than four minutes. After it was broken, it has consistently been improved upon. Today the record stands at 3 minutes 47 seconds, but it is only a matter of time for it to be broken again. Sales standards are the same way. When we create a higher sales standard, we can achieve higher sales performance. Discipline is the cornerstone to raising our sales standards.
The Compound Effect of Discipline
Have you ever noticed how small, smart choices have a way of compounding? The other side of this coin is that small, undisciplined choices have a way of compounding mistakes. We’ve worked with many high-achieving CEOs and sales superstars and one thing they have in common is that they take 100% responsibility for the outcomes they achieve, both good and bad. Said another way, with discipline we don’t allow setbacks to control our performance.
Mistakes happen in sales, but with discipline, we can prevent them from compounding. For example, have you ever witnessed a sales rep who loses a deal they thought they would close? They get upset, show their emotions, blame the prospect, and maybe take the rest of the day off. Not only did they lose the deal, but they lost the production of a day of sales. It takes discipline to detach from the outcome of the sale and continue with your daily sales habits. In sales, we don’t always win the business. What matters is how quickly you can recover. Discipline is the key to recovering fast and maintaining focus on your sales goals.
Alternatively, we’ve all seen the sales rep who closed a big deal and immediately put in for vacation time. This unplanned trip to celebrate a big win can turn into a distraction quickly. With discipline, we are not distracted by short-term wins, because we’re able to delay gratification for the big picture.
Your Internal View of Discipline
How you interpret discipline can have a profound outcome on how you perform. With fake discipline, you likely do what you are told, but not much more. When discipline is fake, you do not fully understand why you are doing something. You rely on willpower, which eventually fails you. With true discipline, you develop self-initiated performance. You are operating from a mental state, detached from emotions. This way you are not dependent on how you feel at any given moment. Discipline detaches you from procrastination because you are not waiting to do something when you feel like it.
Discipline is a Muscle
You don’t go from barely being able to do a pushup, to bench pressing 315 pounds overnight. The same is true with discipline. If you believe discipline will help improve your sales career, it’s best to start with a few basic steps.
- Focus on the little things. Everything counts. From when you wake up, to when you make your first prospecting call, to how many breaks you need to take daily. As you build these simple self-discipline practices into habits, you can tackle more difficult challenges.
- Make it a point to find three opportunities to practice discipline every day. For many sales reps, it could be finding the discipline to listen longer before commenting on a sales call. It could be taking the extra time to update the CRM with complete call notes. Every day is an opportunity to exercise our discipline muscle if we are looking for opportunities to practice.
- Identify the areas you need to work on to improve your sales. For some sales reps who work remotely, they may end up doing chores around the house when they should be selling. It requires discipline to avoid the daily distractions of remote working. For other sales reps on the road, they might take an early lunch and delay an appointment. Discipline starts when we do the next right thing.
Discipline in the Sales Process
If there is one area sales reps can improve with discipline, it is following the sales process. From our experience, it’s not uncommon for sales reps not to follow their company’s sales process. They either take shortcuts or jump to presenting before qualifying. It’s also clear from our perspective that the highest-performing sales teams follow a structured sales process.
When the sales process is followed, it leads to better outcomes. This means shorter sales cycles, more wins, and better closing rates. The best way to maintain discipline in the sales process is to document everything. When sales reps are skipping steps, they also do not have anything to document. Sales reps who like independence and work via gut hunches are less likely to document each interaction with their prospects. This creates two problems. First, if the opportunity is lost, we often don’t know why and cannot improve. Second, if the opportunity is won, we cannot duplicate the results for others on the team to learn from. A sales process based on disciplined activity is a fundamental component of high performing sales teams.
The difference between self-help and self-discipline is in your actions. The first step in disciplining yourself is looking in the mirror and accepting 100% of the responsibility for your sales outcomes. This means, we set a standard of excellence for ourselves based on our ability not what feels comfortable at a particular given moment. When bad outcomes happen, discipline allows us to focus on the next appropriate action, without compounding the outcome by allowing our emotions to distract us. The best way to improve our sales discipline is to focus on how it will help us achieve our goals, not as something we are forced to do. If we view discipline as a muscle, we can develop strength with small obtainable actions. Finally, the biggest impact we can have on our sales outcomes is to develop the discipline to document each step of the sales process.
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