Tips on Managing the Stressors of Up and Down Periods Typically Found With Printing Sales
We’ve all heard this before: Sell hard in the first quarter and you will have a good second quarter. The three most important selling months of the year are September, October, and November. What you do (or don’t do) in this time period will determine how your 2023 ends and how your 2024 begins. Want to avoid a summer slowdown? Put the pedal to the metal in the spring. Planted seeds take time to grow. This thinking is generally known as the “sales cycle” — the amount of time between initial contact with a prospect and landing that first job to make them a customer.
But there is another part of sales that is cyclical as well: the ups and downs of the job itself. Salespeople are either at a low point, at a high point, or find themselves on their way to one extreme or the other. This, too, requires some attention. You need an understanding and a strategy to manage the unique stresses of each. Like everything else in sales, this cycle repeats itself.
You are coming off a busy few weeks. Very busy. A whole bunch of orders shipped and, because your focus was on quarterbacking the task of getting them out the door, little to no selling activity occurred. As a result, sales momentum ceased and you find yourself unmotivated, tired, slightly depressed, and, well, stuck in a rut.
Worse, your recently stellar sales numbers and commission checks make you proud, happy, and lazy all at once. Here’s the roadmap back:
Step One: Recognize that this is temporary. It’s not forever. It will not last. You have, can, and will again sell your way out of it.
Step Two: Take one step forward and tackle the motivation issue by doing something simple but inexplicably powerful: Clean your desk. I have absolutely no idea why this works, but when I am ground to a halt and the wind has left my sales sails (see what I did there?), the simple act of removing everything from my work area, wiping down all surfaces to remove coffee stains, dust, and dirt, gets me organized and provides an odd and unexpected jolt that restarts my sales engine.
Step Three: Focus on today and today only. As you sit wallowing in no-business-self-pity, try not to get overwhelmed by the gargantuan task of getting back to top form. Instead, set a smaller goal and try to make the current day productive. Then, once that has been accomplished, pat yourself on the back and set yourself up for success tomorrow. Baby steps, baby!
Step Four: Begin with the end in mind. Next, think long-range and ask yourself, “Where do I want to be in six months?” followed by, “... and what do I need to do in order to get there?” This exercise gives you something to aim for.
Step Five: Focus on the activity, not the results. Okay, you have a clean, well-organized desk, your sights are on having a productive day, and you have a goal. Next up, you need to plan the selling actions that will get you there. Return to the basics and test some simple and reachable goals. This, too, shall pass.
It worked! Woo-hoo! Your plan to get un-stuck has resulted in some serious results and you are firing on all cylinders. The problem is, however, you are firing on ALL cylinders and have created a crazy-busy and stressful work environment.
Orders are coming in, the phone is ringing, emails are backed up, and everything seems to be a top priority. Here’s the roadmap out:
Step One: Recognize that this is temporary. It’s not forever. It will not last. You have, can, and will again organize your way out of it.
Step Two: Take a step back and get your arms around what seems like an overwhelming workload. Recognize that you are crazy-busy and, as such, special rules apply. You will need to make sure you are not confusing busyness with productivity. I’d tell you to make a list of everything that needs doing, but it is likely you are so bombarded with tasks, you don’t need to. They keep hitting you in the face.
So, instead, repeatedly ask yourself, “What is the best use of my time right now?” Also, say, “no” more often than normal. Not everything is worth your time, and your time is particularly precious.
Step Three: Focus on today and today only. You are not going to get yourself untangled in an instant. So, just try to make today a smoother, more well-organized day.
Step Four: That said, constantly keep tomorrow, the day after, and next week in mind as you go through your selling day. The key to good time management is preparation. So, think ahead and group common activities.
For example, a customer asks to speak with you. If you know you’ll be driving to an appointment tomorrow, see if you can book that windshield time slot for the conversation. As you get better at this, you’ll be able to combine tasks several days ahead. That’s when real productivity happens. It’s all about preparation. Work hard to make it look easy.
Step Five: Understand that not everything is urgent and important. One of the primary faults during spikes of sales activity is we create our own time crises. If you are floored with work and the phone rings, answering is not mandatory. An email with a price request is not automatically a priority. The answer to the question, “Can I get back to you later today?” is commonly, “Of course!” That frees up time and eliminates interruptions.
Step Six: Keep selling! This one might surprise you. As stressful as the crazy-busy stretches of time are, they are also very profitable. So, you’ll want to do everything you can to keep the sales activity up. At minimum, call existing accounts. Preferably, find time every day for sales calls seeking new business. Success breeds success. The wave of work will hit the beach soon enough. Orders will ship and you’ll find yourself with lots of time on your hands. You can rest then. Now, keep selling!
In a perfect world, sales reps avoid low-lows and high-highs through careful planning and looking ahead. But the world is far from perfect and it is inevitable that you’ll find yourself in a crisis of these two extremes. Interestingly, there are lessons to be learned from common denominators. For example, understanding each is temporary. Additionally, you have control over the outcome.
You are not a victim. Sales is cyclical. Everything that happens to you will happen again. While it is naive to think you can maintain a steady flow of work and avoid the peaks and valleys, you can constantly look ahead and maintain a steady flow of planning and preparation. That’s your best bet for smooth sale-ing.
Bill Farquharson is a respected industry expert and highly sought after speaker known for his energetic and entertaining presentations. Bill engages his audiences with wit and wisdom earned as a 40-year print sales veteran while teaching new ideas for solving classic sales challenges. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (781) 934-7036. Bill’s two books, The 25 Best Print Sales Tips Ever and Who’s Making Money at Digital/Inkjet Printing…and How? as well as information on his new subscription-based website, The Sales Vault, are available at salesvault.pro.