My first full-time ‘job’ in sales was in 1976 as a commission only salesperson in the financial services industry.
But what I am about to share with you applies to everyone, no matter what they do in their careers, businesses and even their private lives. I am just using sales as an example.
Back in 1976 and for several years thereafter, there was no internet, no computers, and no mobile telephones. Calculators and fax machines had only just been invented and were very expensive and hard to come by.
When it came to typing letters, one had to be totally focused, know precisely what one wanted to say and be extremely careful not to make any mistakes when typing. There was no backspace or erase on a typewriter; if one made a mistake, one had to start all over again. Using Tippex and sending anything with a mistake in it was unforgiveable. (Anyone remember Tippex?)
As for calculating costs and preparing quotations, one had to be really good at mathematics and it took an awful lot longer than a few taps of the finger on a calculator.
When it came to prospecting for new business and selling, there were basically only four methods available to me:
• Cold calling on the telephone
• Sending a letter followed by a telephone call several days later
• Cold calling in person – commonly known as ‘door knocking’
• Obtaining referrals from others, which still involved the above to contact the referral.
As for learning new or improved ways of selling, there were very few seminars, not many books or cassette tapes on selling techniques, and very little personal development material.
And as for home entertainment, we had only the radio and if I remember correctly, only two TV channels.
Yet in spite of the seemingly restricted ways of doing business, I was just as productive back then as I am today, and in fact more so!
In those days the 80/20 rule applied in sales. 80% of sales came from 20% of the sales team, the reason being that the top 20% worked diligently and the 80% were somewhat lazy or lacked skills and were not coachable or had no one to coach them.
So much has changed since 1976, but in spite of the many additional tools we have at our disposal, what’s really interesting is that in very many companies nowadays the 90/10 rule applies. 90% of sales come from just 10% of the sales team.
(An aside: Back in those days our sales office was either busy with salespeople on the telephone to prospects or customers, or out of the office face to face with them. Now when I go into a sales office, quite often salespeople are staring at a computer screen and doing ???)
Why the heck is this? Why isn’t everyone selling so much more?
There are of course many reasons for this; increased competition, internet savvy buyers etc., etc., all of which can be overcome.
But I believe there are two fundamental reasons:
LACK OF FOCUS and TOO MANY DISTRACTIONS.
I just had four things to FOCUS on:
• Composing and typing excellent letters
• Making telephone calls to prospects and customers
• Cold calling face to face. I walked miles around factory estates and office blocks knocking on doors and asking to see a DM.
• And I always asked for referrals, whether I sold to a prospect or not.
I had no other DISTRACTIONS so could stay totally focused on sales, or be like the 80% of the salespeople in our team, and just laze around and do little. But I needed and wanted the money, and the prestige of being recognised as ‘the best’.
THE MORAL TO THE STORY
If you want to be the very best you can be, sure use all the tools you have available to you to help you do more business, but STAY FOCUSED AND AVOID DISTRACTIONS. It’s really not that difficult with just a little, or maybe a lot of self-discipline.